Sergei Bobrovsky: Backup Goalie to Blue Jackets Legend

Oct 6, 2016; Columbus, OH, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovsky (72) spits water into the air prior to the game against the Boston Bruins during a preseason hockey game at Nationwide Arena. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 6, 2016; Columbus, OH, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovsky (72) spits water into the air prior to the game against the Boston Bruins during a preseason hockey game at Nationwide Arena. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports /

With a 3-0 shutout victory over the New Jersey Devils Sunday night, Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky became the Jackets’ franchise leader in single-season wins.

Related Story: Columbus Blue Jackets shutout Devils 3-0

The record was previously held by Steve Mason, who became the record holder in the 2008-2009 season by winning 33 games in net for Columbus.

Russian-born Sergei Bobrovsky or Bob, as he has been lovingly dubbed by fans, began his NHL career for Mason’s current team, the Philadelphia Flyers in 2010 after General Manager Paul Holmgren signed Bobrovsky to a three-year deal at the age of 21. In his first year, Bob snagged 28 regular season wins and posted a 91.5% save percentage to finish seventh in the Calder Award race. His regular season was a mix of solid performances but in the playoffs, Bobrovsky’s youth and inexperience showed as he went 0-2 in three starts, only stopping 87.7% of the shots he faced. He was benched in favor of Brian Boucher and Michael Leighton in the playoffs constantly as the Flyers set a playoff record for most in-game goalie switches.

The uncertainty of the position’s rightful starter led the Flyers to make a move in the offseason as the uber-popular Ilya Bryzgalov was signed to a nine-year contract, effectively taking Bob’s starting role. Bryzgalov went 33-16-7 while Bobrovsky posted an abysmal 14-10-2 record. Despite his poor performances, Bob continued to be prominently discussed on the internet due to TSN anchor Jay Onrait’s infatuation with the young Russian goalie. His antics on Canada’s SportsCentre became stuff of legend as he yelled “BOBROVSKY!” nearly every time the goaltender made his way into a highlight package. Onrait referred to Bobrovsky as if he was a police officer, telling Sergei that he was “off the case” or that he was a “loose cannon” if he did poorly.

Bobrovsky’s internet fame could not stop him from being traded by Philadelphia as he was shipped to the Columbus Blue Jackets in June 2012 for three draft picks. Due to the NHL lockout, he had to wait to get started with Columbus but that would allow him to return to his home country of Russia to play in the KHL for SKA Saint Petersburg. That time home seemed to be a reset for Bobrovsky because once the lockout concluded and he began in Columbus, he was supremely effective. In the 2012-2013 season, Bobrovsky posted his best statistical season in his short NHL career, going 21-11-6, saving what is still a career-high 93.2% of shots, and averaging 2 goals against. He also earned his first shutout of his NHL career in 2012-2013, finishing with four on the season. His incredible play landed him as an All-Star, fifth-place in the Hart Memorial voting, and helped him win the Vezina Trophy. Somehow, someway, Sergei Bobrovsky went from struggling backup to star of a franchise and recognized as the league’s best.

Since the Vezina honor, Bobrovsky has continued to do well, only experiencing a real down year last season, posting a 15-19-1 record. Not including his rough 2015-2016 season, Bobrovsky has gone 117-61-18 in Columbus. His steady goaltending has given the Blue Jackets the security they desperately needed in the net so they could focus on improving the skaters in front of Bob. After years of struggling, it finally paid off for the Blue Jackets as they are currently sitting in second in the Metropolitan Division with one of the best records in the NHL. They also went on a franchise-record winning streak earlier this season, winning 16 games in a row. As expected, that winning streak can be looked at as a great stretch for Bob as he did not let up more than three goals in any appearance until the streak was broken by the Washington Capitals.

With Bobrovsky notching his 34th win of the regular season on Sunday, Bob can truly be looked at as the best goaltender in the Blue Jackets’ relatively short history. Since coming to Columbus, Bobrovsky has taken the top spot in several CBJ goaltending records. Currently, Bob is the franchise leader in wins (both career and single-season), save percentage, goals against average, goalie point shares, among several others.

In a once-struggling franchise, the solidity and consistency of Sergei Bobrovsky has helped the organization turn around its fortunes and create one of the best teams in the league. Bob’s incredible performances as well as his locker room personality has helped the Blue Jackets become a tight-knit group, handling adversities in ways unseen in past Columbus teams. We at Union and Blue congratulate Sergei for his season and career in Columbus. We hope that we can see Bob demoralizing opposing teams for years to come.

You’re the best cop on the force, Bobrovsky.

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