Sergei Bobrovsky cause of Blue Jackets' improvement

The Columbus Blue Jackets have gone 11-2-1 since Dec. 1, digging out of the cellar in the East and back into the thick of the playoff race. While many point to the team's newfound health as the reason for its change in fortune, much of Columbus' success can be credited to goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky.

Bobrovsky struggled from the beginning of the season through the end of November. He had a 90.7 save percentage, seventh-lowest among goalies with at least 10 starts. According to war-on-ice.com, Bobrovsky struggled most with "high-danger" shots (shots coming from either the slot or the low slot), with a 76.1 save percentage. This ranked second-lowest among goalies with at least 10 starts prior to December. He struggled most when the score was tied.

While Bobrovsky struggled with shots from high-danger zones (shaded blue on the chart), his struggles against shots in tie games from low-danger areas (shaded yellow) hurt him greatly. He allowed four low-danger goals in tie games prior to December. Allowing these soft goals put his team in a trailing position after it had performed well enough to allow low-danger shots.

Bobrovsky turned everything around when the calendar flipped to December. He was helped by a slight drop in shots faced per 60 minutes (33 average prior to December, 32 during), but his numbers improved incredibly across all situations.

Bobrovsky faced a high volume of shots and managed to keep pucks out of the net on high-danger shots. More importantly, Bobrovsky shut the door whenever games were tied. The Blue Jackets won six times either in overtime or in shootouts after Dec. 1, in large part due to Bobrovsky's 97.5 save percentage when games were tied.

After struggling with saves on low-danger shots in tie games prior to December, Bobrovsky was perfect against such shots after the calendar flipped. In fact, three of the four goals allowed by Bobrovsky in tie games after Dec. 1 came in high-danger situations.

As the Blue Jackets continue to creep back into the playoff hunt, they must continue to rely on Bobrovsky to keep them in games and come up big when it matters most.