Friday, May 26, 2023

Is Sergei Bobrovsky having the most amazing Old Guy Goalie playoff run ever?

Sergei Bobrovsky is the story of the NHL playoffs, and it may not be all that close. At 34 and coming off a season that saw him post substandard numbers across the board, the most expensive active goalie in the league has suddenly transformed from punchline to brick wall. A player who wasn’t even considered good enough to be the starter on an underdog eight-seed when the playoffs began might be about to have his name engraved on the Conn Smythe.

It’s been a pretty wild story. Have we ever seen anything like it?

I’m not sure we have. Oh, we’ve seen goalies get hot in the playoffs before. But most of those stories weren’t all that unexpected – nobody was shocked to see a legend like Marty Brodeur, Dominik Hasek or Patrick Roy look unbeatable, and Tim Thomas had just won his second Vezina the year he had arguably the greatest postseason a goalie has ever had at 36.

Other times, we see younger goalies go on a tear, like J.S. Giguere, Kirk McLean or Ron Hextall. That’s cool too, but in a different way, because you wonder if you’re seeing a guy reach a new tier that they’ll stay at for years. It doesn’t always work out that way, but you never know.

But this? A goalie who’s been around forever, and has a recent track record of mediocrity? Those guys are supposed to be known quantities. They’re not supposed to suddenly morph into Jacques Plante. And yet here we are. Bobrovsky is three-quarters of the way to almost single-handedly winning a Stanley Cup.

I’m not sure there’s a precedent for this. So I figured I’d go back through the history books and find out. I pulled up a list of the best postseasons ever had by a 30+ goalie, based on hockey-reference’s Goals Saved Above Average stat. That’s a flawed number – expected goals are better – but it has the advantage of being available for all of history and not just the analytics era, so it’s a decent starting point.

I picked out eight goalies, including Bobrovsky. Let’s start the list with the man himself, as we look back on some all-time old goalie heaters and ask: Was this run more unexpected than what Bobrovsky is doing in 2023?

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