Sergei Bobrovsky knows there is outside noise, complaints and criticisms of his tenure so far as the Florida Panthers’ goaltender. He understands the weight that came with his seven-year, $70 million contract and the expectations that haven’t been met yet through the first two seasons.
But, frankly, Bobrovsky isn’t listening to any of it.
It’s not going to help him in the slightest.
That’s why he deleted his Instagram account, his primary form of social media use. His priorities are on his family and his newborn daughter away from the rink and blocking shots as the Panthers’ No. 1 goaltender when he’s with his team.
Control the controllable, as they say.
“I don’t hear those voices,” Bobrovsky said.
Through two games, albeit a small sample size, it has worked for the 33-year-old to begin a hype-filled season for the Panthers as he once again attempts to prove he can be the high-level goaltender Florida hoped to get when he signed.
Bobrovsky has been steady in net as the Panthers won their first two games of the season — a 5-4 overtime win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday and a 5-1 win over the New York Islanders on Saturday, both at FLA Live Arena in Sunrise.
Bobrovsky has stopped 72 of 77 shots that have come his way to begin the season, but three of the goals he has surrendered have come with the Panthers on the penalty kill. His .953 save percentage at even strength is third among goalies who have made multiple starts.
“He’s been incredible,” center Sam Bennett said. “He’s making game-changing stops. All we can ask of him is to be steady back there, and he’s done a heck of a job. We have all the faith in Bob. It’s great to see.”
Now, how much should we read into this? Time will tell. After all, this is a two-game sample size at the start of an 82-game regular season.
But the performance early is noteworthy if only because of Bobrovsky’s tendency to start seasons slow before picking things up as the season progresses.
Heading into this season, Bobrovsky’s career save percentage in October was .903 over 72 games played, the lowest mark in any month of his NHL career.
But that was in the past, and Bobrovsky doesn’t want to talk about the past.
“My mind set,” Bobrovsky said, “is to be right here, right now. Not thinking about what’s happened before or what’s going to happen later. I’m here. I’m enjoying being here.”
The wins to start the season have helped, too. Bobrovsky was in net for each of his team’s first two games and left both with wins for the first time since the 2014-2015 season.
“He’s had a good approach,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “I thought that the summer was good for him. I think [Goaltending Coach Robb Tallas] and him looked over a lot of the stuff that was going on over the last year. I thought he made improvements off the first season, adjusting some of his equipment and his game and his positioning. He looks more comfortable, more patient in the net. He’s had two great games for us — a great start to the season.”
The hope now is that it continues. The Panthers face the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday.
“The most important thing for me is to focus on one day at time,” Bobrovsky said. “Enjoying coming to the rink. Enjoy being with the guys. Enjoy playing hockey and not go too much ahead, not thinking. Just put the gear on and have fun stopping the puck.”
This and that
▪ The Panthers have already been on the penalty kill 13 times this season, tied with the Montreal Canadiens for the most in the NHL despite Florida only playing two games and Montreal three.
▪ Twelve Panthers players have recorded at least one goal or assist through the team’s first two games.