Sergei Bobrovsky was visibly upset sitting in the locker room after the loss to the Washington Capitals, giving up an overtime goal to fellow countryman Alex Ovechkin. Just a few hours ago, during the morning skate, Bobrovsky discussed strategy with the coaching staff, drawing diagrams on a white board attached to the glass. The Blue Jackets are in the last place in the Metropolitan Division and last year’s Vezina Trophy winner is being really hard on himself for his play.
“This is a difficult time for us.” Bobrovsky told me after the game against Washington. “We are trying to adopt, to adjust to the Eastern Conference. We are getting used to playing teams a little different. But we are always working on getting better.
“It is still too early to say whether it is somehow easier to play in the Eastern Conference for us as a team. We haven’t played that many games, that’s why it is too early to draw conclusions.”
For Bobrovsky himself, the Vezina memories are well in the past.
“I am not thinking of the Vezina at all anymore,” he said. “Only in the summer did I get to enjoy it. But now the thoughts about it are gone.
“I am trying to play just as hard as I did last season. I am working just as hard. But it is difficult to say what is wrong. At least right now not everything comes out the way I want. I am trying to find the answers. It is tough to say what the reasons for it are.”
Even though Bobrovsky was not really in the mood to talk, he answered a few more questions for Puck Daddy.
Q. With all due respect to Curtis McElhinney, is it possible that without Steve Mason you don’t really have true competition for the number one spot?
BOBROVSKY: "No, I don’t think this is the reason for the level of play I am showing. He wasn’t there at the end of last season as well, and it was still different for me, the way I played. So, that’s certainly not the reason.”
Now that you are the Vezina Trophy winner, do teams play differently against you, maybe drive the net, or figured you out more?
“It doesn’t matter how they play against me, because it doesn’t excuse my performance. If I don’t play the way I am supposed to play, it doesn’t matter what they know and what they don’t.”
You are full of self-criticism!
“I am just telling you how it is. I am telling you what I see at this time.”
To change a subject a little bit, have you heard about Ilya Bryzgalov signing with the Edmonton Oilers?
“I am not following any other team, to be honest. But I have heard that Bryzgalov signed with the Oilers. I am very, very happy for him! He was like a teacher to me in Philadelphia. He helped me so much. I had a great relationship with him, and I still do. I have a very high opinion of him as a player and as a person.”
A lot of people have different opinions about him, which may not be true reflections of his character. If you had to tell people something about Bryzgalov that they don’t know, what would it be?
“He is a sincerely very good person. He is kind and is always there for you. What can I say? He is just a very good person.”
Not long ago there was an episode involving Ray Emery and Braden Holtby that created a lot of discussions about goalie fighting. What’s your take?
“Yes, I saw that. My opinion? Only the people who know how to fight should do it. Not just anybody. I have never fought. And I am not eager to do it, to be honest.”
Vladislav Tretiak was scouting you in Washington. Do you feel you were let down when the National Team didn’t invite you to the Worlds last year?
“To be honest with you, I didn’t even know he was at the game! But everything is in my hands. I don’t hold grudges for not playing in last year’s Worlds. It is still up to me at this point. I just have to play and prove that I am going to be worthy of an invitation to Sochi.”
When the room cleared Tretiak came in and sat down next to Bobrovsky. The two talked in the empty locker room for a few minutes, with Tretiak providing words of encouragement for the Columbus goaltender.
“I really like how he reads the game,” Tretiak told me after he spoke with Bobrovsky. “Yes, there are some mistakes, but those can and will be overcome with work and especially experience. When I was a young goaltender, I made mistakes. You can learn. But you can’t learn to read the game the way Bobrovsky does. It is a talent.”