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2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs

Sergei Bobrovsky Back on the Case for the Florida Panthers

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Florida Panthers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky stops Tomas Nosek during the first period of an eventual 4-3 overtime win in Boston on Wednesday night. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

After Sergei Bobrovsky gave up five goals on 30 shots in the Florida Panthers 6-2 loss to the Boston Bruins in Game 4 on Sunday, it would have been easy for coach Paul Maurice to go back to Alex Lyon on Wednesday night.

After all, Lyon got the Panthers to the playoffs in the first place, right?

Yet with the Panthers’ season on the line, Bobrovsky led the Panthers out onto the ice for Game 5.

He answered the bell.

“The decision to play Sergei Bobrovsky was made right by Sergei Bobrovsky,” Maurice said on Wednesday night.

“I had an even call on both goaltenders in my mind. But I felt that the pressure needed to be on Sergei to play this game, he needed to carry that weight, and like Matthew Tkachuk, Aleksander Barkov, the leaders carry the weight of your team. And he needed to carry that weight. He was brilliant on that ice, and that was all him.

“It wasn’t the coaches’ decision, it’s not the faith I showed in him, that was all Sergei Bobrovsky.”

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Bobrovsky was absolutely terrific on Wednesday as he kept a tilted ice surface in the second and third periods from falling into the Boston Harbor.

The Panthers were outshot 34-14 from the start of the second period until the start of overtime.

All told, Bobrovsky made 44 saves in Florida’s 4-3 overtime victory.

It was a win which not only forced a Game 6 tonight in Sunrise, but kept the Panthers’ season going.

Unlike Wednesday, there is no doubt who starts for the Panthers tonight.

The net belongs to Bobrovsky again.

“The playoffs are the best time to play hockey,” Bobrovsky said after the win. “I did enjoy tonight and the guys helped out a lot. We defended well against a really, really good team. They have a lot of good offensive guys who also played great.

“Right now we have to settle down. There are som many emotions. We just have to settle down, be humble, reset and refocus and go out and do it again. The next game is even bigger. Our backs are still against the wall.”

Bobrovsky has been a polarizing figure with the Panthers for much of his tenure here with many deriding the monster contract he signed in 2019 after leaving Columbus as a free agent.

He was supposed to be the missing piece for the Panthers, but his inconsistent play for much of these four seasons has opened the door for Chris Driedger, Spencer Knight and Lyon to step in and take control of things.

Few inside of the organization talk much about Bobrovsky’s seven-year, $70 million contract, but Maurice mentioned that was one reason why he made the final decision to start him on Wednesday.

Lyon, to be fair, has handled enough of the pressure for the Panthers. He stepped in last month when Bobrovsky got sick in Ottawa and ran off six straight wins and a seven-game point streak to earn Florida a playoff spot.

He also started the first three games of this series.

It was Bobrovsky’s time to step up.

“That game that Sergei played, because of the pressure of being an elimination game, he gets to carry that with him,” Maurice said on Thursday morning.

“The team will respect that win for Sergei moving forward for years. Veteran players and your highest-paid players, this is where the pressure has to be on their shoulders. They have to rise to the occassion. And he did.

“Everything we could have hoped for from Sergei, he delivered.”

FLORIDA PANTHERS ON DECK
STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS, ROUND 1
BOSTON BRUINS (ATL1) VS. FLORIDA PANTHERS (WC2)
GAME 6 (Boston Leads 3-2)

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