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2024 Stanley Cup Champions

Sergei Bobrovsky Won’t Win Vezina Tonight – But He Has the Cup

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Bobrovsky
Florida Panthers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky celebrates with the Stanley Cup on Monday night in Sunrise. // Photo courtesy @FlaPanthers

SUNRISESergei Bobrovsky will be in Las Vegas tonight, attending the NHL Awards as a finalist, for the third time in his career, for the Vezina Trophy as the league’s best goalie. 

Bobrovsky went to Nevada knowing he probably is not going to win. 

After the experience he just went through, Bobrovsky probably does not care, either.

If there was any question about whether Bobrovsky would end up in the Hockey Hall of Fame, it was answered Monday night when he made 23 saves in Game 7 and helped his Florida Panthers win the Stanley Cup for the first time. 

Bobrovsky had never gotten out of the second round before putting the Panthers on his back last year and taking them to the Final against Vegas. 

Now, his legacy is complete.

“He pretty much cemented it knowing that was the only thing missing for him,’’ Roberto Luongo said Monday night as Bobrovsky helped ensure his name would finally be engraved on the Stanley Cup. 

“He’s won Vezinas. The Stanley Cup was the last thing he needed to accomplish. He did that, and I’m so happy for him.”

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For a few more hours, Bobrovsky remains the only active NHL goalie who has won the Vezina Trophy. 

Connor Hellebuyck will join him in that club tonight. 

But now a Stanley Cup champion, Bobrovsky can fly to Las Vegas with a smile and not a worry in the world. 

Everything has worked out famously. 

“I think it’s tough to put it into words,” Bobrovsky said after winning the Cup for the first time. 

“I’m so happy. Your whole life, you work for this moment. I can’t even describe that. I want to thank God for the opportunity, for the experience, to put me here in this position. It’s all him.”

Things were not always all that great for Bobrovsky in his time with the Panthers, and it took until last year’s playoff run to him to finally find peace and appreciation for his role in South Florida. 

Bobrovsky effectively replaced Luongo as Florida’s starting goalie when he left Columbus and signed a seven-year, $70-million deal — the biggest deal in franchise history until Sasha Barkov got the same contract with another year tacked on in 2021. 

His struggles in Sunrise started almost immediately, with coach Joel Quenneville benching him for the first time at Thanksgiving after an uneven start in Washington. 

Bobrovsky appeared to lose his starting job with the Panthers on several occasions to Chris Driedger and Spencer Knight.

Last year, Bobrovsky became very ill during a loss in Ottawa; Florida’s playoff hopes were on life support, and the team desperately needed a win in Toronto to keep them alive. 

Alex Lyon, in relief, won that game. And the next.

Lyon kept the net, going 6-1-1 in Florida’s final eight games to get them into the playoffs as the eighth-seed in the East. 

When the Panthers started the playoffs in Boston, Lyon was the starter. Not Bobrovsky. 

With Florida losing Game 3 in Sunrise, coach Paul Maurice put Bobrovsky in late — and gave him the Game 4 start. Florida lost 6-2 and were dead in the water down 3-1.

Maurice kept Bobrovsky in for Game 5, Florida won in Boston, and the rest, as they say, is history. 

Bobrovsky has been a different goalie ever since.

“I think the story of Sergei Bobrovsky is how he goes into Game 5, and you almost need to fully appreciate the pressure that he is under in that game,” Maurice said at the time.

“Alex Lyon has saved our season, if you will, he’s been so good. But the weight of that game needed to be carried by (Bobrovsky). And he did.”

The pressure was back on Bobrovsky against the Oilers. 

Florida took a 3-0 lead in the Final and were ready to be coronated as champions. 

The Oilers won the next three, and the Panthers were a loss away from not only not claiming glory but also having to live with the ignominy of the biggest collapse in pro sports history.  

“I’ve got to tip my hat to him,’’ Luongo said. “That’s not easy to do what he did. I know. I’ve been in his shoes. To come back and play a game like he did when you feel the pressure of the world on your shoulders, it takes somebody special to do that. He proved tonight that he’s one of the best.”

History will now only remember Bobrovsky and his Panthers as champions. 

“It’s all a learning experience,” Bobrovsky said. “Every step, every bitter sip of it, is worth it for this moment.

“There was some adversity. And to become a true champion, you have to overcome adversity. It wasn’t easy, obviously. It was three losses in a row. They scored lots of goals. But, again, we have a great group of guys. We work for each other. We love each other. We compete for each other. We did it.”

And, tonight in Vegas, Bobrovsky will likely not be honored with his third Vezina — but he will be celebrated for what he just accomplished. 

Not to mention how he did it.

“He’s been our best player all year, all playoffs long,’’ Sam Bennett said Monday. “When we needed him the most, he stood on his head again tonight. It’s just incredible.’’

For More FHN Coverage of the Stanley Cup Champion Florida Panthers:

UP NEXT FOR THE FLORIDA PANTHERS
  • Stanley Cup Championship Parade, Fort Lauderdale: Sunday, 11 a.m.
  • NHL Draft, Las Vegas: Friday-Saturday
  • NHL Free Agency: Monday
  • Florida Panthers Development Camp, Fort Lauderdale: Early July
  • Florida Panthers Training Camp, Fort Lauderdale: Mid-September
  • Florida Panthers Preseason: Sept. 22-Oct. 5
  • Florida Panthers Opening Night/Banner Unveiling: TBA

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