The Caps certainly have their work cut out for them in round one, as they face easily the best team in the league in the Florida Panthers. Their white hot offense has been backed up by solid goaltending from Sergei Bobrovsky. In what is going to likely become a track meet of a series, the Caps are going to have to find a way to solve Bobrovsky, especially considering that they ar not going to be able to out shoot or out-xG the Panthers. While that’s not nearly as difficult of a riddle as the other potential goalie we thought they might have to face in Shesterkin, it is still no easy task.
So to answer the question: “How do you beat Bobrovsky?” I watched every 5v5 goal he did allow this year, and categorized them using 10 different descriptors. From there, I looked for any patterns that emerged. Here is what I found.
Before I get into what I found, let’s talk about how I broke down each goal. I used 3 categories of descriptors. 1) Descriptions of the actual shots that went in, 2) Pre shot factors 3) Factors that affect a goalie’s ability to make the save.
Actual shot Factors
- Whether it was a shot or a deke.
- Shot direction (e.g. high glove side, five-hole, etc).
- Whether the shot was a one-timer.
- Whether or not there was a cross-ice pass preceding the shot, and if so, which direction the goalie had to move.
- Whether the shot came on a rebound.
- Whether the shot came on the rush.
Factors affecting the goalies ability to make a save
- Whether he was screened.
- Whether it was tipped.
- Whether the shooter had a wide open net.
And finally, I had an additional descriptor for whether or not it was a “weird” goal, something that really doesn’t help in terms of figuring out how to beat the goalie. For instance, this Connor McMichael goal, where he banked it in off of Bobrovsky.
For starters, there were a total of 97 5v5 goals that Bobrovsky allowed. Of those, 12 were weird goals, leaving us 85 normal goals to analyze.
A quick disclaimer before going into this, some of these percentages may be affected by their prior distributions, that is, some of these may actually only be more common as goals because they were more common as shots that were not goals, and not because Bobrovsky is particularly susceptible to that particular situation, but outside of a couple of super obvious situations, I’m generally comfortable chalking these results up to him.
High Glove Side
So let’s start with the easiest, and possibly most obvious, statement of all time: Go high, preferably glove side, on Bobrovsky. He allowed 48 goals where he was at least somewhat square to, and had a clear line of sight to, the shooter, and of those, 33 were high, and 20 were high glove side. You can say that about probably pretty much any goalie, but it indeed does still apply to Bobrovsky.
Cross Ice Passes
Another relatively obvious statement is that if you force him to move side to side with a cross ice pass, it becomes much easier to score. Less obvious though, is that he is particularly susceptible to cross ice passes that force him to go from his right to his left. In other words, forcing him to push off his right leg to get across the crease. Of goals that came right after a cross ice pass, 74% were right to left passes.
I don’t quite know what the cause of this is, but I do believe it to be an abnormally high number, as when I did a similar study on Igor Shesterkin, it was much closer to 50/50.
Something I didn’t realize until well into this project is that Bobrovsky gives up a ton of rebounds. According to Natural Stat Trick, he faced more rebound shot attempts/60 than anyone else in the league at 5v5 (minimum 500 TOI), with 4.44. According to MoneyPuck.com, he gives up the second most rebounds/save at 5v5 (minimum 10 Games).
And doing a little creative math with data from Natural Stat Trick, as well as my own viewing of all of his goals, he is scored on about 40% more often on rebound attempts than on other shot attempts. Which means that heavy net front presence is even more important in this series than it usually is.
Historically Bobrovsky has been significantly worse in the Playoffs than he was in the regular season. Hopefully, the Caps can cause that to continue. The best way for them to do that is to rip shots high glove side and to force him to push off his right foot to get to the other side of the net.
Finally, guys like Mantha and Wilson need to be parked right in front of the net as soon as the puck crosses the blue line into the offensive zone, and not leave until either play stops or the puck comes back out of the zone.
If those things happen, the Caps at least have a prayer of beating the President’s Trophy Winners in round 1.