(Sunrise) Sergei Bobrovsky has to go to the hairdresser.

The Florida Panthers goaltender has had to use a headband lately in order to hold back his hair. Bobrovsky doesn’t usually have this problem: as soon as the season ends, he shaves his head and beard as short as possible so he won’t be bored until the start of the next season.

This season, however, continues. And his hair continues to grow.

And meanwhile, the legend of Bobrovsky continues to be written. The Russian goaltender started the playoffs as an auxiliary goaltender behind Alex Lyon, before carrying the Panthers to the Stanley Cup Finals. He first muzzled the menacing Boston Bruins in the first round, then ousted the Toronto Maple Leafs in the second and did the same to the Carolina Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference Finals — he swept them , after notably contributing to the Panthers’ victory in the fourth period of overtime in Game 1.

It’s for this kind of situation that he asks the Panthers equipment man to drill holes in his skates: he sweats a lot and splashes so much water during a game that it must end up flow somewhere.

“He’s from another planet,” Panthers forward Carter Verhaeghe said. He’s been playing so well since the playoffs started. Whenever we need a big save, he pulls it out. Every time the opponent tries to find their rhythm, they break it. He has an impact on our games, and he’s been amazing. It’s a real brick wall. »

His stats tend to back up Verhaeghe’s 12 games: an 11-1 record, 438 saves on 465 shots for a 94.2% save percentage, and a 1.95 goals-against average. In nearly 100 minutes of overtime, he turned aside all 54 shots he faced.

He’s won the Vezina Trophy twice already, and the Panthers acquired him on the free agent market in 2019 before signing him to a seven-year, $70 million contract. And so far, it’s worth every cent invested.

“He’s always played that way, and he’s now being rewarded with a Stanley Cup Finals appearance,” said Panthers forward Patric Hornqvist, who fires shots relentlessly in his direction, so that both men can continue to improve. My wife told me he shed a tear when he found out we would be in it…Those moments…they’re so ‘cool’ when a player realizes the position they’re in. »

Goalies, by definition, are eccentric, each with their own routine and beliefs in order to perform to their full potential. Panthers head coach Paul Maurice stopped trying to figure out his goaltenders ages ago. He has already stated several times that he knows nothing of this position. He greets Bobrovsky when he arrives in the morning, and sometimes those are the only words the two men exchange.

The bond of trust is very strong between them. Maurice doesn’t have to make sure Bobrovsky works hard in training. He knows that the 34-year-old veteran, who is in his 13th NHL season, will do everything in his power to be at the top of his game.

“It’s wonderful,” agreed Bobrovsky. I’ve been in this league for a while, you know, and I know my body and my mindset. I have these tools, those that make me up, that allow me to prepare. And I appreciate that trust. It’s good to know that I can count on that… that kind of freedom in your work environment. »

And he deserved it.

And so, the Panthers are relishing the moment. They’re going through a long hiatus right now, as Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals won’t take place until this weekend, at the earliest. The Panthers will be rested, and Bobrovsky assured that his routine will not be affected by this long enforced break.

This will be his first appearance in the final series. His source of inspiration is obvious, and if he ever needs to reminisce about it, then he just has to glance at the locker next to his in the Panthers locker room. This is a photo of the Stanley Cup, with 16 holes drilled into it, 12 of which have so far been filled with a puck symbolizing each of his team’s playoff victories this spring.

So there are only four holes left. Four victories to record.

“We have to have fun, savor the moment,” Bobrovsky said. This is very tough hockey. When you think about it, you realize how hard we had to work to find ourselves here, we think of all these great teams that faced us, and all these great players who are eliminated. And we are still here. We are very lucky. »

And the haircut is coming, in a few weeks. This time around, however, she might enhance the appearance of a champion.

“There is no superstition in what he does,” Maurice noted. He works hard every day. »