Bobrovsky’s composure and humility led the Panthers to two victories in the Eastern Finals

SUNRISE, Fla. — This was after Game 5 of the Eastern Conference First Round, a game Sergei Bobrovsky flew for the Florida Panthers, his last striker save Brad MerchantThe Panthers’ breakaway kept the Panthers alive long enough for a 4-3 overtime win that would propel them, after two more wins, into the second round, and Bobrovsky addressed his team.

He received the puck of the game after making 44 saves on 47 shots, after showing the form that had twice won him the Vézina Trophy, voted the NHL’s best goaltender.

But Bobrovsky was not celebrating after this game. Or, not exactly.

“He says, ‘Everybody stay in your humble bubble,'” Florida’s backup goaltender said. Alexander Lyonswho had started the first three games of the first-round series before handing over the net to Bobrovsky at the end of game 3. “Obviously that just means we have to reset as quickly as possible, come back. me to understand the things he does to bring you down after a super emotional win.”

Bobrovsky reset. The Panthers reset. They moved on, shocking the Bruins with three straight wins, a streak that extended to five in a row after winning the first two games of the Eastern Conference Second Round on the road against the Toronto Maple Leafs .

Now, as they prepare for Game 3 of the best-of-7 series at FLA Live Arena on Sunday (6:30 p.m. ET; TBS, CBC, SN, TVAS), the message remains the same.

“It’s going well,” Bobrovsky said on Saturday. “We have a good vibe in the locker room. We’re getting closer and closer. Lots of good feelings. But again, at the same time, we’re excited and humbled because it’s the playoffs. We’re playing good teams. We stay humble and stay focused.”

[RELATED: Complete Maple Leafs vs. Panthers series coverage]

As Florida does what no one expected — first defeating Presidents’ Trophy winner Boston and now going up 2-0 over Toronto — Bobrovsky has been its backbone. Always calm. Always professional. It’s a role he’ll play once again in Game 3.

“We don’t really investigate what that concern is,” Bobrovsky said. “It’s about one moment, one game at a time, one shift at a time.”

It’s part of what made Lyon so eager to watch Bobrovsky, knowing where he was and how he got there, and the strength and focus it took to keep himself at the level where, at 34, he has. been able to turn a turbulent season into a tour de force at the right time.

Bobrovsky has started 49 games this season, going 24-20-3 with a 3.07 goals-against average, .901 save percentage and one shutout, all numbers lower than he has set up in 2012-13 (21-11-6, 2.00 GAA, .932 save percentage, four shutouts) and 2016-17 (41-17-5, 2.06 GAA .931 save percentage, seven shutouts), when he won the Vézina.

But neither of those seasons saw Bobrovsky advance to the first round of the playoffs.

Asked to assess his game, Bobrovsky deflected: “It’s hard to say your game is high or low. It’s also about what’s going on around you. I’m really happy to to be a part of those games, to play that hockey at that time of year. I’m lucky for that. I’m excited to be competing against the best guys in the world. They’ve got some really good offensive guys and that’s is a good challenge for me, a good challenge for us, and we’re excited about it.”

They’re excited about the position they’re in, as Bobrovsky helped push the Panthers to the Eastern Conference Finals, having allowed two goals in each of the first two second-round games against the Maple Leafs.

“It was extinguished”, the defender Radko Gud said. “He’s been there for us all the time and he gives us the confidence to play the way we can and stop whatever he can. And I’m really happy for him, the way he’s been performing too. He’s the hardest-working guy in our team, so it’s no surprise to us that he prepares for all these shots.”

Video: How did Bobrovsky return to 10 million form?

It is this work, this preparation, that Lyon continues to admire, something he has watched since he first saw Bobrovsky during training camp.

“Whether it was December 20, when I first arrived, or April 20, he’s the same person, he approaches the game in the same way,” Lyon said.

But there was no guarantee that it would have happened that way. After coach Paul Maurice inserted Bobrovsky in Game 3 against Boston, he had the veteran start Game 4, his first start since March 27. 3-1 in the series.

Instead of returning to Lyon, Maurice stayed with Bobrovsky. It paid off.

“It’s the weight of leadership – and I’m not talking about me, I’m talking about him,” Maurice said. “He’s a veteran who’s a very important part of our team and when you come into those playoff games the players have to shoulder that burden of leadership and he certainly has.

“Sergei came in and was solid, strong and consistent, and that’s how he makes the team in front of him feel.”

It’s because of the way Bobrovsky behaves, but also because of those details, because of that preparation, because they see him coming on days off to work with the coaches, the way he takes care of him and never skimps, even at 34 years old.

“It’s a great thing, even for young guys, to come in and see how he works,” Gudas said, “the way a superstar like that is always on top of his game and goes out of his way to every night, not just for the future, but for the game that’s coming.”

Two more wins and Bobrovsky will reach the Eastern Conference Finals, a spot he has never seen in his career. If that happens, it will be ready.

“He knows how to handle these pressure situations and the 3-1 loss in this last series was huge, a lot of momentum against him, a lot of pressure,” Gudas said. “He’s the man for the job. He does it for us.”

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