On the one hand, the goalkeeper who has just had the most dominant season of the last 20 years. On the other, the worst goalie to make the playoffs since 2011.
Exactly as we all predicted, it was a monumental blunder by the former and an inspired performance by the latter that forced Game 6 between the Boston Bruins and the Florida Panthers.
Several elements contributed to the Panthers fleeing Massachusetts like thieves after a 4-3 victory in overtime. Masked men, however, wrote much of history.
Sergei Bobrovsky first. It’s been quite a while now that he’s been talked about only for his pharaonic salary and his unreliability – especially in view of the aforementioned pharaonic salary. Let’s remember at the start of the series, sitting at the end of the bench, cap on his head, while the very forgettable Alex Lyon defended the Florida net. A sadly eloquent image.
Since the Russian established himself in the NHL in 2010-2011, no goalkeeper has been worse than him in the playoffs. His 3.18 goals-against average and .900 save percentage placed him, heading into Wednesday’s game, 33rd and last among those who have started at least 25 games in the interval. His win-to-start ratio (0.35) moved him up a single rung.
However, Bobrovsky was very good on Wednesday. He would gladly erase the goal awarded to Brad Marchand from the videotape of the game, but on those of Patrice Bergeron and Taylor Hall, it is difficult to blame him. On the contrary, he stood up in front of the barrage of shots that the cubs served him.
Clearly, the Bruins had no desire to return to Sunrise, delivering their most compelling performance of the series so far. This coincided, well, with the return of Patrice Bergeron to training. By controlling 64% of shot attempts and 62% of expected goals at five on five, the Bostonians have signed one of the greatest dominance of these young 2023 NHL series, according to the Natural Stat Trick site. After the first period, they more than doubled (38-18) the number of shots on target for their opponents. Bobrovsky, however, prevailed.
200 feet away from him, Linus Ullmark just didn’t measure up. First on goals number 2 and 3, scored by Sam Bennett and Sam Reinhart, respectively, when he looked out of position. Then, and above all, in overtime.
His nonchalant clearance attempt from behind his net became a perfect pass to Carter Verheaghe, who quickly found Matthew Tkachuk posted in front of goal. The latter made fun of poor Ullmark, now lying full length in his blue semi-circle.
His assistant Jeremy Swayman has been excellent during the season. His stats weren’t quite as stellar as Ullmark’s – 1.89 GAA and .938 RPG, unheard of since the early 2000s – but he’s amply proven he can be a safe bet.
We suspect that this will help fuel the conversations between now and the next duel, scheduled for Friday. And since you never shun a good goalkeeper controversy, no one is worse off.
There is obviously the question of goalkeepers, but it would be a bit short to sum up the state of play to this aspect of the game alone.
In front of the media representatives on site after the game (La Presse followed the Montreal game), Jim Montgomery, head coach of the Bruins, identified in general the collective problems to be corrected.
He lamented his club’s “game management”, which spent a lot of energy trying to overturn a deficit: 1-0, then 2-1, then 3-2. His team, he noted, did not show up “on time”. It was indeed the Panthers who had the upper hand in the first period. There will be a thorough review to be conducted, and quickly.
Some individual performances also deserve attention. Hampus Lindholm, one of the league’s most prolific defensemen this season, is yet to score a point. David Pastrnak, author of 61 goals before the start of the playoffs, has scored only 2 since the start of them. He had a good game with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, but he was again shut out.
Suddenly, the Bruins’ margin of error has shrunk to very little. If there’s one team that can bounce back, it’s this one. However, it should happen.
Because at the dawn of a match number 7, after a hypothetical additional defeat in Florida, and with the real prospect of elimination in the first round, no one would be interested in their record season of 65 victories.
It would be a shame to have done all this for nothing.