Sergei Bobrovsky's career resurgence has the Panthers back in the Stanley Cup Final

After several rough years with the Panthers, Bobrovsky has started to look like a two-time Vezina winner over the last 12 months.
New York Rangers v Florida Panthers - Game Six
New York Rangers v Florida Panthers - Game Six / Joel Auerbach/GettyImages

For the second year in a row, the Florida Panthers have won the Prince of Wales Trophy as the champions of the Eastern Conference. This time around, they needed six games to finish off the New York Rangers. One of the biggest reasons for the repetition was the play of Sergei Bobrovsky in the net.

Florida's netminder allowed just 12 goals in the six-game series, posting a .921 save percentage and a Game 1 shutout against the Rangers. However, things haven't always been this smooth for Bobrovsky since making the move to the Panthers in 2019. Since last April, Bobrovsky has performed at a level we hadn't seen from him in years, helping the Panthers to back-to-back Stanley Cup Final appearances.

Bobrovsky got it started with Philadelphia and Columbus

After signing with the Flyers out of the KHL in 2010, Sergei Bobrovsky was immediately thrown into the spotlight. With his team fresh off a Stanley Cup Final appearance, the rookie netminder started 52 games for Philadelphia, winning 28 of them with a .915 save percentage and a 2.59 GAA. His performance in that postseason was lackluster, landing him on the bench, which carried into the following season as he backed up for Ilya Bryzgalov.

As his stock in Philadelphia fell, Bobrovsky was dealt to the Columbus Blue Jackets on the first day of the 2012 Draft for a trio of picks, one of which was used by the Flyers to draft his now-backup in Florida, Anthony Stolarz. During the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, Bobrovsky was phenomenal, winning 21 games and posting a 2.00 GAA en route to his first Vezina win. Four years later, he'd be back on top, sporting a league-best .931 save percentage and 2.06 GAA for the 2016-17 season as he took home his second Vezina.

For all of his regular-season success, Bobrovsky always stumbled once the playoffs came calling. In his first five postseason trips, he'd won just five times in 24 games, failing to lead his team to a series win. All of that changed with Columbus' miraculous 2018-19 run, which included one of the most incredible upset victories of all time. In their sweep of the Lightning, Bobrovsky allowed just eight goals with a .932 save percentage. Even as the Blue Jackets fell in the second round to Boston, Bobrovsky was solid.

Things got a little tougher in Florida

The series against the Lightning during the 2019 playoffs is likely what got Sergei Bobrovsky paid that offseason. Bobrovsky signed a seven-year, $70 million contract with the Florida Panthers, making him one of the highest-paid goalies in the league. Unfortunately, the adjustment was tough in Sunrise. He struggled in his first two seasons, both of which were shortened by the COVID-19 pandemic. Bobrovsky's postseason performances in 2020 and 2021 didn't give off much confidence, either.

Bobrovsky seemed to turn a corner during the 2021-22 season, winning a league-high 39 games as the Panthers won the President's Trophy. He backstopped Florida to its first series victory in 26 years in the first round before being outdueled by Andrei Vasilevskiy in the second round. His postseason success in 2022 didn't carry into the next regular season. Bobrovsky's numbers swole back to a near-.900 save percentage and a 3.00+ GAA as Florida barely secured the final postseason spot in the Eastern Conference.

The switch turned back on last postseason

By the time the 2023 postseason rolled around, Sergei Bobrovsky was backing up Alex Lyon. After falling behind in the series 2-1 to the Bruins in the first round, Paul Maurice opted to make a change, though it fell flat in Game 4 after Bobrovsky allowed five goals in a 6-2 loss. Still, Maurice stuck with Bobrovsky for Game 5, where he stopped 44 shots to help kickstart what became an incredible comeback, capped off by an overtime win in Game 7.

This seemed to trigger a massive turnaround for Bobrovsky. Over the next two series against Toronto and Carolina, Bobrovsky looked unbeatable. He allowed just 16 goals in his next nine starts, winning eight of them to help Florida reach its second Stanley Cup Final. Unfortunately for the Panthers, the old Bobrovsky showed up against Vegas, getting shelled in Florida's five-game loss to the Golden Knights to fall short of the Stanley Cup.

This minor setback didn't deter Bobrovsky this season. He finished in the Top 6 in the league in wins (37), save percentage (.915), GAA (2.37), and shutouts (6) to earn the third Vezina nomination of his career. He's been just as solid this postseason, entering the Stanley Cup Final with a 2.20 GAA and earning all 12 of Florida's wins to this point. He's beaten a solid trio of goalies this postseason. The only major prize missing from Bobrovsky's resume is a Stanley Cup victory, and this is probably his best chance to get it done. At 35 years old, the clock is ticking.