BOSTON – Although he’s starting fresh with the St. Louis Blues, Vladimir Sobotka wants Bruins fans to know – many that still love him – that he was stung for weeks after Boston’s defeat at the hands of the Philadelphia Flyers last spring.
“Probably, I don’t know, two, three week [to get over it],” Sobotka told TheBruinsBlog.net hours before his first game against his old teammates at TD Garden. “I tried to not to think about it. What happened happened. I just don’t want to look back and think about what happened in the playoffs.”
What happened, of course, was unfairly heaped on Sobotka’s shoulders after Boston lost that dramatic Game 7 of its second-round playoff series with Philadelphia. There were a lot of factors that went into the Bruins’ historic collapse, but many singled out the bench minor for too many men on the ice that led to the Flyers’ game-winning power-play goal as the main culprit.
Sobotka was the extra man on the ice after Marc Savard didn’t go for a line change. In the immediate aftermath of the game, and for weeks beyond, the debate raged as to whether Savard or Sobotka was at fault – with Savard surprisingly not publicly accepting even a share of the blame. Sobotka is still baffled as to why anyone blamed him.
“I read some comments, what Savvy said about it, that it was my mistake,” said Sobotka. “Everyone knows what happened on the bench and I’m not going to say anything about it again. What happened happened.”
Sobotka was scheduled to be a restricted free agent last summer, but in the days leading up to the draft it looked like he might have a future with Boston. Then came the trade with Florida, which landed forwards Nathan Horton and Gregory Campbell for the Bruins. It was then that the now-23-year-old forward could tell the Bruins didn’t have him in their plans.
“I knew that [I’d be traded when] Campbell and Horton came here. So I was thinking about where I was going to fit. And I kind of wanted to stay in Boston, but they got two new players from Florida – one a centerman – so I knew there was no spot for me,” he explained.
After the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, the Bruins announced they dealt Sobotka to the Blues for prospect David Warsofsky. However, it hasn’t been smooth sailing for Sobotka with a blue note on his chest. After signing a new contract with St. Louis, Sobotka had to have his right shoulder surgically repaired – an injury he suffered against Buffalo in the first round of the playoffs.
Sobotka didn’t skate for a month after the surgery and then was only able to skate on his own. He didn’t join his teammates for practices until the regular season started. That made for a slower transition after his first pro hockey trade, which separated him from longtime friends like David Krejci and Brad Marchand from the Boston organization.
“It was a little hard for me, but it’s been good. We have good guys on the team,” said Sobotka.
He said he’s still getting his timing down and building strength in his shoulder – which he showed tonight by scoring his first goal and acting as a menace in all three zones against his former mates. But the Blues, led by goaltender Jaroslav Halak, are off to a solid start as a team. That has allowed them to be patient with Sobotka for now, and the opportunities for him – more so than they would’ve in Boston – should increase as the season unfolds.