On the Leafs goaltender radar: Sergei Bobrovsky

Quick! Name a Russian goalie on the Philadelphia Flyers!

No, not that one. The other one: Sergei Bobrovsky, at one point in his career a rookie save percentage leader, and the next, unable to contest for regular ice time except for a brief December stretch playing behind the team’s new $10M man in Ilya Bryzgalov.

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Bobrovsky followed up his stellar 2011 campaign with a forgettable 2012. After posting a .915 in his rookie season, the 23-year old Nuvokuznetsk native registered an .899 in just 29 games played. Now, with eight more years of Bryzgalov, our friends at Broad Street Hockey have speculated that it may be time for the Flyers to sell on their backup netminder.


The most important part of Bobrovsky is that his name is perfectly acceptable to spell as “Sergey”. This must be kept in mind. To the data mines:

Quality Starts

Despite Bobrovsky’s awful numbers in 2012, Bobrovsky recorded a quality start, a game where a goalie records a league average-or-better save percentage of 91.3%, in 15 of his 25 appearances. That 60% rate puts him on par with a lot of other goaltenders this season, while the best hover in the high 60s and the worst starters this season came in slightly below 50%.

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In 2011, he had 52 starts, 34 of them considered “quality” by our mathematical standards. That’s just over 65%, meaning that over his short career, Bobrovsky has given his Flyers an excellent chance to win in a little under 64% of his overall starts. Getting that game-to-game consistency is something that the Leafs have lacked save for a stretch of games in the 2011 season where James Reimer came in and played the second half.

Notable, however, that Bobrovsky’s overall save percentage comes out much worse than his quality start numbers would have you suggest. Bobrovsky gets roughed up in a number of outings. In his last start, he allowed 4 goals on 23 shots to Pittsburgh. He stopped just 17 of 23 in a February 4 start against New Jersey and was the starter in the infamous 9-8 game against the Winnipeg Jets back in October.

The reverse of a quality start is a ‘blow-up’, or a game where a goalie fails to stop 85% of pucks or allows five or more, handicapping his team’s chances to win. The best goalies will have this happen less than 10% of the time, while most starters are below 15%. In 25 starts this year, Bobrovsky was blown up 6 times, matching his previous year’s total in 52 games.

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Even strength play

Part of the problem with looking at basic save percentage or quality starts is that it can be dependent on the penalty kill. Goaltenders for teams that kill a lot of penalties are up against tougher odds than those that don’t, and certain teams can employ PK schemes that have been shown to restrict the quality of a shot.

If teams can control shot quality at even strength, however, any effect is much smaller. Bobrovsky had a .923 save percentage at EV in 2011, but that dipped to .916 this past season. Stacked up against NHL average in both seasons, Bobrovsky was higher one year and lower the next:

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Year Faced Saves EV SV% EVSV%+
2011 1238 1143 0.923 0.903
2012 607 556 0.916 0.895
Career 1845 1699 0.921 0.900

Funny, but the combined NHL save percentage of all goaltenders was identical from 2011 to 2012: .9208. Overall, Bobrovsky’s EV SV%+, a measure I use to assess goaltenders at even strength from different years, is right at .900, the mark I’ve set for average goaltenders.


Let’s just assume that, stacked together, Bobrovsky’s last two seasons have been exactly average. There have been seven post-lockout goaltenders who had 70 NHL games before they turned 25, and Henrik Lundqvist is right at the top, but Bobrovsky is stuck in a middle group with Carey Price, James Reimer and Steve Mason.

Except for the quality starts, which could be determined by a good Philadelphia penalty kill, there isn’t all that much separating Sergei Bobrovsky from James Reimer at this point. Bobrovsky is still on an entry-level deal that pays him just under what Reimer makes, but he’ll be restricted at the end of this season. Reimer still has a year left on his deal, and the other advantage with him is that you don’t have to give the Philadelphia Flyers anything to get Reimer on your team.

It would be nice to have another fresh face at camp, but Bobrovsky doesn’t exactly pan out to be a world beater with these numbers. If he can be had for cheap, it would be fun to see him trade starts with Reimer and the two can push each other. Both are coming off disappointing sophomore campaigns after good rookie seasons, so the two can experience regression together and look like a formidable duo, best case scenario.

Bobrovsky probably isn’t the Leafs’ best choice (again, we haven’t gone through everybody) but he’s certainly one to keep an eye on.

Previously in the “On the goaltender radar” series:


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  • Danny Gray

    Kent Wilson wrote:
    LN is just getting on its feet. Back in 2009 when FN was getting established, the only comments used to be from Oiler fans…saying how empty the place was.