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2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs

Sergei Season: Bobrovsky Brings Florida Panthers to Verge of Final



Bobrovsky panthers
Florida Panthers goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky acknowledges the crowd after Game 3 on Monday night in Sunrise. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

SUNRISE — Getting Sergei Bobrovsky to say something about himself these days is about as easy as getting a puck past the Florida Panthers goalie.

Yeah, good luck with that.

Bobrovsky has been showing his humble side in public of late, pushing the glory of what he has been accomplishing onto his teammates.

Good thing his numbers — and, Bobrovsky’s teammates — are more than willing to sing his praises from the rooftops.

As well they should.

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Bobrovsky is on the kind of heater in goal only seen once before in Florida’s brief playoff history.

If John Vanbiesbrouck was considered the standard for all Florida playoff goalies to live up to — Roberto Luongo only had one shot at it here — Bobrovsky is quickly passing the Beezer in Panthers lore.

As Vanbiesbrouck helped carry the 1996 Panthers into the Cup Final, Bobrovsky is a win away from doing the same with the 2023 Panthers.

”It is the team structure, how we play,’’ Bobrovsky said. “My teammates allow me to play good, how hard they work in the defensive zone to get that result and to win. It is not easy for some players to do that, to protect the net and sacrifice their stats. … I feel good, just enjoying the opportunity.”

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On Monday night, Bobrovsky was simply fantastic once again.

He has now given up two goals or fewer in eight consecutive games, allowing Carolina just three in as many games.

Over the course of what amounts to 14 periods of work against the Hurricanes, Bobrovsky has made saves on 132 of 135 shots (98 percent).

He not only recorded his first playoff shutout in a 1-0 win over the Carolina Hurricanes on Monday with 32 saves, but he has now stopped 110 of the past 111 shots he has faced including his past 67.

Now, with a 3-0 lead in this best-of-7 series, Bobrovsky is a win away from dragging the Panthers into the Stanley Cup Final.

They would not be here without him.

He may not acknowledge this, but the rest of his Florida teammates certainly will.

“He has been incredible all playoffs long,’’ Sam Bennett said after Florida’s win in Game 3 which now has Carolina on the verge of a long summer break.

“It is really incredible to see. It gives our team that much more confidence and much more belief. Even if they have a big push, we know we’ve got a guy back there who is going to fight and do whatever it takes. It’s a lot of fun playing when you have a goalie playing like that.”

Added Radko Gudas: “He was his usual self, I would say. We try to make his life easier because he makes our life easier. He has been nothing but great for us.”

Bobrovsky is not going to talk about himself although he seemed to enjoy fans chanting his name is a positive way during Monday’s game.

”It makes me appreciate our fans, they are the best fans,” said Bobrovsky, whose 132 saves in three games against Carolina surpassed Johnny Bower (125 saves in 1960 against Detroit) for most saves by a goaltender through the first three games of a final four series.

“I am happy, we are happy, to give them this.”

Bobrovsky is in the midst of a big-league reclamation project after four uneven regular seasons and a postseason — this one — in which he was not even Florida’s starter.

Look at the numbers since.

When it comes to the only number which matters (wins), Bobrovsky is 10-1 since getting the start in Boston for Game 5.

The Panthers’ season was on the line and he made 44 saves in a 4-3 overtime win which extended things for at least one more game.

Florida has come a long way since.

With a win Wednesday night in Game 4 — or in any of the final four games remaining in this series — the Panthers will be playing for it all.

Yes, the Florida Panthers.

“No matter what the score is, we’re just trying to make it as easy as possible on him,’’ said Sam Reinhart, whose power play goal midway through the second was the only one scored on Monday night.

“He has come up with some big-time stops which you need. He comes up big for us.”


GAME 4 (Panthers Lead 3-0)

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