Don’t look now, but Sergei Bobrovsky’s lost confidence may have been found.
The Columbus Blue Jackets netminder was stellar in Friday night’s 4-0 shutout of the Nashville Predators making 39 saves, including this highlight-reel stop on James Neal:
The win was another sign of a revived Blue Jackets squad under new head coach John Tortorella.
Following the team’s fourth loss to begin the 2015-16 season, a 7-3 thrashing by the Ottawa Senators, Bobrovsky admitted to having “zero confidence.” The rough start led to Todd Richards’ eventual dismissal, and installing Tortorella has brought a turnaround, with ‘Lumbus winning four of their last five and going from pointless in their opening eight games to within five points of a wild card spot 13 games later.
It’s been a tale of two months for the Blue Jackets. We know how horrible October went, but once the calendar turned to November, Columbus tightened up defensively and, as Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch pointed out, are blocking more shots since noted shot-blocking fan Tortorella took over. Their even strength shot differential has also improved by nine shots, according to War on Ice.
While Tortorella preaches shot blocking, he stays away from his goalies. He wasn't about to try and get inside Bobrovsky's head while he struggled. While in New York he let Benoit Allaire handle all things Henrik Lundqvist related. In Columbus, he’s left that work to the team’s goaltending coach, Ian Clark.
“[Bobrovsky’s] really quiet, and I don’t want to disturb him in any way. I just want him to stop the puck, but he is always working out, he is always preparing and some of the comments he made when Richie was fired out of here, those were honest comments from him,” Tortorella said earlier this month.
The Blue Jackets’ plan to start digging up the Eastern Conference standings relied on better defense, starting with Bobrovsky’s. On the books until 2019 and carrying a $7.425 million cap hit, October made fans yearn for the Vezina Trophy winning Bobrovsky, but it was only a matter of time before he regained his form.
Bobrovsky’s newfound confidence has resulted in a jump in score-adjusted even-strength save percentage from .872-percent in October to .941 in November so far, fourth-best among goaltenders this month.
Winning creates confidence, and the Blue Jackets’ disastrous start was early enough in the season that there was still plenty of rope to use to help them climb out.
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