Starter: Sergei Bobrovksy
It’s taken as a given now that the single most important player to Columbus is Sergei Bobrosky. When he is at his best, he is one of the best goaltenders in the league. We saw this in 2013 when he was a workhorse and won the Vezina Trophy. Unfortunately, each subsequent year has seen him play fewer games, and with declining stats.
Can he avoid the groin injuries which have nagged him the last three seasons? The team hopes that the hire of Nelson Ayotte in the training department will help. He worked with Bob in the offseason and overhauled his training regimen. So far it looks like those changes have helped. Bob looked very sharp for Team Russia in the World Cup, despite facing a barrage of shots in each game. He made some great saves in limited preseason action here, as well.
Backup: Curtis McElhinney
In his first two seasons in Columbus, I thought CMac was a pleasant surprise...at least as far as backups go. He did well enough over his starts to not cost the team games. He seemed at his most effective when he had to fill in for a string of consecutive games. I feel like his worst performances were when he had over a week with no action. Then the rust would show.
Last year, however, he was much less effective in all scenarios. Joonas Korpisalo became the replacement starter while McElhinney remained the permanent backup.
This camp was supposed to be a battle for the backup spot, but McElhinney almost won by default. Korpisalo got hurt and Forsberg was not clearly better. With the team planning to lessen Bob’s workload, it’s critical that McElhinney returns to form. Otherwise it won’t be long before one of the prospects replaces him.
In the Pipeline:
Korpi was the best goalie for Columbus last season. Many of us wanted to see him make the team out of camp to essentially be the 1b to Bob’s 1a. Unfortunately, he injured his groin last week and will miss at least 4 weeks. One would expect him to make some rehab appearances in Cleveland. Will he get to come to Columbus immediately after that?
For now, Forsberg will return to his role as the starting goalie for the Cleveland Monsters. He excelled in the Calder Cup run in the spring, but still has yet to distinguish himself at the NHL level. It will take multiple injured players for him to return to Columbus for any extended period of time.
Thiessen is worth noting, as he was another surprise last year. When the prospects in Cleveland got called to Columbus, Thiessen was added to the Monsters from the ECHL team in Cincinnati. In 22 games, he had a 12-4-4 record with .929 save percentage and 1.95 goals against average. He will miss the start of the season with an ankle injury, but when he recovers he could once again be important to the Monsters’ on-ice success.
I want to see a lighter workload for Bobrovsky this season. I want to see the goalies stay healthy. I want to see a consistent rotation, rather than 4 different goalies getting starts. Finally, I hope that because of the upgrades to the blue line (notably the additions of Jones and Werenski) that whoever plays in goal will have more help from his teammates and will not have to make 30+ saves per night. Eric Seeds will have more on the defense with his preview on Monday. Stay tuned...