Sergei Bobrovsky. You're getting excited just reading those two words consecutively.
I'm not going to talk about Bob's journey to becoming the Philadelphia Flyers starting goaltender because there is enough media out there detailing that.
What I am going to talk about is the amazing season he is having. Currently sitting on a league-leading 11 wins (from 14 games), with a GAA of 2.01 and save percentage of .934, Bob has emerged as a genuine Calder Trophy candidate and could prove to be a legitimate candidate for the Vezina Trophy if he continues to play at a similar level. Some would argue he is unlucky to be left off the All-Star ballot.
Just one thing remains: When will Bob claim his first shutout?
It's an intriguing question that I will try and answer.
Let's look at the schedule for the rest of November:
Nov. 16: Philadelphia at Montreal
Nov. 18: Tampa Bay at Philadelphia
Nov. 20: Philadelphia at Washington
Nov. 22: Montreal at Philadelphia
Nov. 24: Philadelphia at Minnesota
Nov. 26: Calgary at Philadelphia
Nov. 27: Philadelphia at New Jersey
There is one standout game here. Break out your Sports Illustrated Swimsuit calendar and pencil in Nov. 27 for Bob's first shutout.
Why you ask? The Devils are a basket case at the moment, in case you haven't noticed. They are last in the league for goals per game, and have been shutout twice in their past four games.
Their star recruit Ilya Kovalchuk is performing well below his usual standards, Zach Parise is injured, and even if he returns he won't be at full capacity by the 27th. Patrik Elias and Jason Arnott, the Devils two leading scorers, are formidable, but they are veterans past their prime.
With the Flyers current play, I am going to predict that they will wipe the floor with the Devils and Bob will claim a relatively easy shutout.
Now this is all well and good, but it neglects the fact that there are six opportunities before the Devils game for Bob to get a shutout. Why not any of these games?
I am not saying that it is impossible for Bob to get a shutout in any of the earlier games, but I do think it is unlikely. Here are the reasons why:
Montreal in both games will be looking for redemption for last year's playoffs, and are also a division-leading team. Despite playing under defensively minded Jacques Martin, players such as Brian Gionta and Mike Cammalleri will likely put one or two behind Bobrovsky and keep the game competitive.
The Capitals are an offensive powerhouse, with Ovechkin, Semin, Backstrom, Green and are leading the league in goals per game. Enough said.
My argument for Bob not claiming the shutout against Tampa Bay is based on two words: Steven Stamkos. The leader of the Art Ross and Rocket Richard trophies will also lead the Lightning to the playoffs this season, despite the temporary loss of Vincent Lecavalier due to injury, and the Flyers will be lucky to shut them out.
Minnesota seems like a fairly obvious candidate for Bob to claim his first shutout. They are currently 27th in the league for goals per game, are renowned for their defensive style and sit just outside the playoffs.
However, Minnesota currently has the highest power play percentage and the most power play goals, whilst the Flyers are one of the leagues most penalized teams. Whilst I would predict a comfortable Flyers victory, based on current form, I would also predict that the Wild would put in a power play goal or two.
Calgary is a realistic possibility for a shutout, but they are really no better or worse than any of the other teams the Flyers have failed to shutout thus far. Despite Calgary being shutout twice in their first three games, they have been scoring fairly consistently since then and players such as Rene Bourque have begun performing. They would be a decent bet, but not quite as good as New Jersey the night after.
So, in answer to the title of this article, I think Bob will get his first shutout against the Devils on the 27th. Pencil it in. It's not a revolutionary prediction but I am making it nonetheless.
Thanks for reading.