Sergei Bobrovsky has posted solid numbers so far in his rookie season in the NHL, but one thing is still missing: a shutout. Not that Bobrovsky is really even looking for one.
"Wins are much more important than shutouts. Shutouts will come when they come."
It might have looked like Bobrovsky struggled a bit in December after a strong start, but Bobrovsky saw no drama about it.
"I just played less", he says. "There were three goalies on the team – me, Boucher and Leighton."
"Maybe it sounds like I’m looking for excuses? It just happened. I kept working hard on my game and then things changed again."
"I’ve been given a chance and I’m trying to make the most out of it. I want to prove that I’m worthy to play in Philadelphia."
Bobrovsky says it’s easier to practice when the team carries just two goalies instead of three.
"It’s hard to prepare for the games when there are three goalies and two goals. I was aware that they could’ve sent me down, too."
Bobrovsky’s parents are visiting him right now and he admits he’s enjoying every bit of it. Especially his mom’s cookings.
"My parents came here on January 4th. As soon as they could leave from work, they flew to America."
"It’s been awesome! I get to eat all kinds of treats I want. I just run home after every practice!"
Nothing compares to mom’s dumplings.
"I haven’t even tried the local ones. Nothing compares to our Siberian ones! I’m so sorry to see mom and dad leave at the end of the month. I’ll have to start going to the restaurants again."
Bobrovsky says his parents have enjoyed their visit.
"You bet! They had never seen 20 000 people rooting for me like that. People’s attitude towards hockey is overwhelming in Philadelphia. Each game is like a celebration."
"There were like three, four thousand people at games in Novokuznetsk."
Father Andrei admits he’s impressed.
"Yes. I really like the way they are taking care of Sergei."
"He’s grown up quite a bit in a year... playing with the best players in the world. Well done."
"I was surprised to see so much stuff sold with his name on it. Caps, t-shirts, everything."
ASG break in Canada
Sergei says he’s started to get more familiar with the area now that he has a car.
"Now, yeah, when I bought a car. I’ve found a couple restaurants where you can dine. I was just sitting at home in the beginning. And it was hard with the language."
Bobrovsky is happy with his new car.
"It’s a Lexus. I’ve always liked them. It’s comfortable and has a big trunk for hockey gear."
Another young Russian NHL goalie, Washington’s Semyon Varlamov, has already started giving interviews in English.
"Everything takes it’s time. We know each other very well with Varlamov. We used to play against each other in juniors. And now we’re both in the NHL. We just played Washington a while ago."
The nickname Bob has caught on everywhere. So well, that it got it’s own little promo clip with Flyers broadcaster Steve Coates as Santa.
"He was dressed as Santa, asking me all kinds of different questions and I just kept answering ‘Bob!’ to everything and smiling like a fool, making it look like it’s the only word I know."
"But in reality, I understand a lot of English. It’s just hard to talk, still."
Bobrovsky says he picked #35 since he had some experience with it.
"I’ve worn #1 all my life. But here the number is retired for Bernie Parent. I once wore #35 on the national team. I chose that here because of that."
Bobrovsky says he tries to get his mind out of hockey when he’s off the ice.
"When there are no practices or games, I try to get myself out of it. I chat with my girlfriend through Skype or watch some movies. It would be too much if I just had hockey in my head all the time. You can burn out that way."
Bobrovsky says his girlfriend is still having visa issues.
"She wasn’t allowed to come to the States. It was like a hammer to the head to me."
The situation doesn’t look to get any better either.
"No. You see, she went for an interview again and was turned down again. They told her that a single girl has no business in the States. They suspect that she’s trying to move in illegally."
Bobrovsky will be able to meet his girlfriend during the All Star break nonetheless – in Canada.
"I’m going to Toronto to meet her. We’ll have five days, since she got a Canadian visa. We could also meet when we played in Vancouver."
Maybe it would be easier to play on a Canadian team?
"I’m happy to play for the Flyers. The visa problem just needs to be solved somehow", he sighs.
Bobrovsky isn’t upset for not being a part of the All Star Game.
"It’s not the goal for my season."
Don't write off Leighton
Flyers scouting consultant Bill Barber thinks the Flyers have found a diamond in the rough in Bobrovsky.
"Exactly. It’s too early to rush into conclusions, but Bob is playing well this season. He already has some experience. He’s young, but plays the most difficult position in hockey very well. He’s very quick in his movements, excellent post to post and just sharp in general. He’s got huge potential."
Bur Barber wouldn’t make the comparison to Pelle Lindbergh.
"Don’t compare them. The game has changed dramatically over the past few years. The only thing they have in common is that both goalies could play their teams and themselves on the top right away. The Flyers are in the first place in the league now."
"Bobrovsky will adjust over time. The main thing for him and the organization is to not rush things. The game is completely different here compared to Europe. The rink is small and there’s more traffic in front of the net. It takes time and patience to get used to the NHL."
Barber thinks the battle for the starting position doesn’t include just Bobrovsky and Brian Boucher. Michael Leighton is still in the picture.
"I would not write off Leighton. He led the team to the finals last season. We’re living in a difficult time in hockey now with the salary cap. Nobody knows what’s going to happen tomorrow when Leighton might be useful. It’s only midseason. If Michael is not with the team right now, it doesn’t mean that he won’t be in the playoffs."
But Barber would be confident to make a playoff run with Bobrovsky in net as well.
"Without a doubt! Yes, playoff hockey is different. But you need to win games to get in the playoffs and you need to win games to win the Stanley Cup. If Bobrovsky can do it now, why couldn’t he do it in the playoffs?"
"I would trust the guy."
A couple of quick questions for Bob in the end.
Which celebrity would you like to have dinner with?
"Right now I’d just like to take my girlfriend out for a dinner in Philadelphia."
"I like comedies, but also movies with deeper meanings. Of the actors, I like Nicholas Cage and Al Pacino. Maybe Godfather? No, I can’t choose just one."
"Isuzu Axiom. I still have it in Russia. It wasn’t bought that long ago when I was learning to drive with it."
"I’ve never worked outside of hockey."
Favorite subject in school?
"History and geography."
What time would you like to live in if you had a time machine?
"I’m happy here and now."
What’s your dream?
"I don’t fly high in the clouds, I set goals in my life. If I reach them, I set new goals further away and try to reach those. They’re like steps of a stairway. One of the goals is the Olympics in Sochi. I don’t know what’s going to happen in a year or two. But I have everything in my own hands."
This report was based off of a Russian-language story in the publication Sovietsky Sport.