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|Sergei Bobrovsky likely to work on mental game
13 ìàÿ 2017 ãîäà. Columbus Dispatch. By Aaron Portzline
This is the week most Blue Jackets players will get started on offseason workout routines. It has been more than three weeks since they were bumped from the first round of the playoffs by the Pittsburgh Penguins, and the loins and ligaments are rested and healed.
Last summer was transformative for many players, especially goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, who arrived in the fall looking less like a wrestler and more like a jockey.
Bobrovsky lost 17 pounds from his 199-pound frame, a stunning drop of body mass for a well-conditioned professional athlete. But the weight he needs to drop this summer — it’s between his ears — might prove more difficult to lose.
When the Blue Jackets went their separate ways shortly after being ousted by the Penguins, management, coaches and Bobrovsky agreed that his struggles during the playoffs were mental. In five games, he had an .882 save percentage and 3.88 goals-against average.
In his exit meetings with management, Bobrovsky was said to be receptive to the idea of working with a sports psychologist or doing other types of mental training to get over his struggles.
“Sergei is devoted to excellence,” said Paul Theofanous, Bobrovsky’s agent. “Every year he looks at himself after the season and says, ‘What can I do better? What can I do smarter? How do I make myself more effective?’ He’s an incredibly driven player and person. Incredibly devoted.”
But nobody will say what that’s going to entail, mostly because they don’t want Bobrovsky’s struggles to become a constant topic of discussion.
Bobrovsky is home in Russia. He will return to the United States in June for the NHL Awards Show in Las Vegas, when he’s expected to receive the Vezina Trophy as the league’s top goaltender. He’s also a finalist for the Hart Trophy as the league’s MVP.
It will remind everybody of how dominating Bobrovsky was this season: 41-17-5 with a 2.06 goals-against average and .931 save percentage.
It will also raise the curious question again: Why has he struggled so in the NHL playoffs?
Bobrovsky has been on bigger stages — the Olympics, the World Cup, the world championships — and has played well with few exceptions. It’s the Stanley Cup playoffs that have been a struggle.
General manager Jarmo Kekalainen has no plans to alter the Blue Jackets goaltending this offseason. Unless he’s claimed in the expansion draft, Joonas Korpisalo will be Bobrovsky’s backup next season.
“Sergio Garcia couldn’t win a major, but now he’s won a major and he might just keep going,” Kekalainen said. “Back home in Finland, we had a cross-country skier (Marja-Liisa Kirvesniemi) who was the best in the world, but couldn’t win for the longest time.
“Then she got to the Olympics (in 1984) and she won everything, and she kept on winning.”
It’s knowing Bobrovsky, Kekalainen said, that convinces him he’ll get through his struggles — however he decides to fight them this summer.
“The brain is the hardest muscle to train,” Kekalainen said. “It’s also the most frustrating, because you don’t see the result immediately, like a biceps or quadriceps. With the mental side, you don’t see the results, and if you have one setback you think it’s not working.”
The Blue Jackets won’t know if Bobrovsky is “fixed” when he returns to Columbus in late August. They won’t know until they reach the Stanley Cup playoffs again.
“Bob will do the necessary work in whatever area he needs to work, and he’ll get over the hump,” Kekalainen said. “He has to prepare himself to be at his best when it counts the most.”