There’s no denying that Sergei Bobrovsky has talent. The 31-year-old Russian goaltender is a two-time All-Star and two-time Vezina Trophy winner.
But there’s also no denying his slow start to his first year with the Florida Panthers, who signed him to a seven-year, $70 million contract this offseason. Bobrovsky has just a .872 save percentage through six starts — the third-lowest efficiency among the 32 goaltenders who have started at least four games. He has allowed at least four goals in four of his six starts, including surrendering five in Friday’s overtime loss to the Colorado Avalanche on Friday.
For nearly every breathtaking save Bobrovsky makes, for every scrum in front of the net that he holds off — and there have been a slew of both early on this year — there seems to be an equal amount of frustrating minute-long stretches where the opposing team executes.
Bobrovsky will have the day off Saturday as the Panthers (2-2-3) travel to Nashville to face the Predators to finish their third set of back-to-back games of the season.
“We have to keep the puck out of our net,” Panthers coach Joel Quenneville said. “A couple goals [Friday against Colorado] were open-side plays and we have to be stingier in that area.”
Should there be cause for concern? Based on Bobrovsky’s track record, not so much.
Bobrovsky has a tendency of getting off to slow starts. His career save efficiency and goal-allowed average for October (.904 and 2.91) are the worst of his career for any given month.
He posted sub .900 save percentages in the month of October last season and in his injury-shortened 2015-16 campaign — both with the Columbus Blue Jackets.
He responded perfectly fine both times.
Last year, after posting just a .882 save percentage and a 2-5-0 record in October, Bobrovsky closed out the year with a .917 save percentage over his final 57 starts. Columbus, which reached the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, went 37-19-1 after October with Bobrovsky in net.
Bobrovsky started out even worse in the 2015-16 season. He had a .865 save percentage and a 2-8 record in 10 October starts. His finish to the season: A .921 save percentage in 25 games, missing the bulk of January and February with a groin injury.
There’s also the matter of the opponents he has faced.
Four of Bobrovsky’s six starts came against teams that reached the Stanley Cup playoffs last year (Tampa Bay Lightning twice, the Carolina Hurricanes and the Avalanche).
The Avalanche, Lightning and Buffalo Sabres also all rank in the top seven in the NHL in goals scored per game.
What about Montembeault?
Backup goalie Sam Montembeault will make his second start and third appearance of the season on Saturday against the Predators, a team that leads the NHL with an average of 4.29 goals per game. Monembeault, 22, has allowed three goals on 48 attempts this year for a .938 save percentage. He is 0-0-1 after picking up the shootout loss against the New York Islanders last weekend.
Praise the PK
The Panthers are quickly becoming one of the better teams on the wrong side of the power play.
After successfully killing off both power-play attempts by the Avalanche on Friday — including a four-minute opportunity in the first period for a high stick — Florida has an 88.9 percent penalty kill efficiency, good for fifth-best in the NHL.