Sergei Bobrovsky (Getty Images)
Sergei Bobrovsky's Columbus Blue Jackets may be mired at the bottom of the league's standings, but the Russian goalie is again flashing the skills that made him a Vezina Trophy winner in 2013.
It's been a black-and-blue, injury-filled season for the Columbus Blue Jackets, but Sergei Bobrovsky has been one of the bright spots recently.
The former Vezina Trophy winner appears to have regained the form that made him the top goalie in 2013, with three dominant wins in his last three starts.
He was certainly on top of his game Saturday in helping the Jackets steal a 3-1 victory in Tampa against the first place Lightning.
Bobrovsky turned aside 34 of 35 shots against the Lightning, and played more than 58 minutes of shutout hockey before Tampa’s Ondrej Palat finally beat him with 1:13 still on the clock in the third.
He made two particularly good saves on Tampa's Brenden Morrow, including this one:
It was Bobrovsky’s third straight win, and it was every bit as convincing as his 52-save performance in a shootout victory against the Florida Panthers on Thursday.
Bobrovsky has now turned aside 109 of 114 shots in his last three games for a combined save percentage of .956. Two of those wins came in a home-and-home with Florida, while Saturday’s victory came against the league-leading Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Blue Jackets have been in free fall this year, and they’ve sorely missed the game-stealing performances Bobrovsky delivered during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season.
Bobrovsky started strong this season but his numbers fell into a black hole in late October, which was about the same time Columbus’ key players began dropping like flies.
He now has just eight wins in 17 starts this year, and his team struggled mightily early last month while he was out with an injury.
But Bobrovsky has had a save percentage of .945 or above in his last three wins, and his stellar performance has allowed the team in front of him to wear down the opposition and score the odd goal.
The Blue Jackets may have dug themselves too deep a hole to climb out of in 2014-15, but they still need to get a good year out of their No. 1 goaltender.
Bobrovsky is in a contract year, and he’ll be a restricted free agent in July after earning $5.625 million this season. He’ll need to finish the year strong to convince management that he’s worth a long-term, big-dollar investment going forward.
What he makes this summer will all depend on what he does this winter.