In this the first installment of the CBJ 2013 Review, we’re going right for the empty-netter, the obvious one. Although that metaphor doesn’t actually translate to the player we’re talking about. Instead, his contribution is a more literal ferocious effort between the pipes, a relentless, stalwart force, unrelenting and nigh-impossible to solve. Oh, and at times he made it look effortless and calm. He should be the Vezina winner, and he could be seen as a serious Hart candidate. He is Sergei Bobrovsky.
But you know all these things if you watched any hockey this year. Bob was a beast, plain and simple. His dominance relative to his team and relative to other goalies was simply astounding. Arguably the best comparison point from goalie to goalie is save percentage. Even strength save percentage is more informative yet, and Bob excels in both. Even further, to fully understand the pressure he was under we can compare the Jackets’ team Fenwick to other teams’.
Here with his peers (other starting goalies with strong save % numbers) is a table breaking down overall save percentage, even strength save percentage, team Fenwick, and the ratio of the save percentages to team Fenwick:
Highlighted in Green are the SV%/FC of James Reimer and Sergei Bobrovsky (Fen Close is used as a decimal rather than a whole number). Bob’s overall save percentages are more impressive than Reimer’s, but they both operated at a very high level despite being a part of teams with very poor defenses.
Now this kind of metric does unfairly “punish” goalies with good teams (the FC value does drive the thing) but it gives a rough goalie-by-goalie comparison of the working conditions for all this year’s elite netminders. Bob had as rough a job as nearly anybody and he performed as one of the best in the NHL.
Bob also joins an exclusive group with his save percentage numbers this year. He’s now had one of fourteen goaltending seasons with 35 or more games played and a save percentage over .930 in NHL history. The list is even smaller when you consider that two times belong to Thomas and three for Hasek. Can we expect this kind of performance out of Bobrovsky next year? Probably not, especially given the limited size of that group we just mentioned. Fortunately, if the rest of the team improves his contribution need not be so grand and that ratio of SV% to FC can drop safely.
More important for judging Bob, however, is that his career save percentage has now landed at .917. Going into the season, I had concerns about his performance given one good year and one poor. Now it seems that the bad year is more likely the fluke and that Sergei was forced into a backup position that didn’t suit his abilities. Getting starting-caliber goaltending will continue to help Columbus going forward, even if it’s not Vezina level every year.
But for now, we can bask in the insanely great season from Bobrovsky. He put the team on his back and led them quite nearly to the promised land. An enormous feat, and the easy pick for team MVP.