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How the Metro Can Hurt: Columbus and the Bobrovsky Factor

What will each Metro team need to keep the Islanders from the playoffs? The first in a series...

Technical flaw, or another who got away?
Technical flaw, or another who got away?
Dave Sandford

Send not for whom regression tolls, it tolls for thee.

Just as no man is an Island, no man is the entirety of the Columbus Blue Jackets. But Sergei Bobrovsky and his Vezina-winning form could be the solitary factor making Columbus a contender for a playoff spot in the expanded Patrick Metropolitan Division.

Though the Blue Jackets wisely played a bit of "prove it" hardball this summer in negotiations with Bobrovsky and his reported quest for a long-term deal, they still paid him a handsome salary on an RFA two-year deal and they still quite like him.

In fact, though history and expected regression would tell us his .932 save percentage and .941 even strength percentage will not repeat in 2013-14, his three-year history at age 24 (25 in September) hint at a goalie who could be getting better. Even if not a truly elite goalie as he was in the 48-game 2013 season, he could be very good -- and a difference maker.

Motivated by rejection from the Flyers and a World Championship snub by Russia -- leaders had already promised the #1 job to Ilya Bryzgalov, the same goalie who ousted him from Philadelphia -- Bobrovsky is unlikely to let the two-year, $11.3 million deal the Blue Jackets gave him go to his head.

The team reportedly coached the undersized goalie to resist dropping to his knees so quickly when in traffic, and the results do not refute that advice. In due diligence in advance of acquiring him, the Blue Jackets heard lots of "hardest-working goalie" comments to go along with his already renowned athleticism, according to The Hockey News yearbook.

Their new Metro neighbors don't quite know what to make of the Blue Jackets, who went 20-5-3 last season to almost salvage a playoff spot after a 4-12-4 start highlighted by Steve Mason failing yet again. Which is the real team? (Granted, the answer is usually somewhere in between.) And how much will the addition of a still-recuperating Nathan Horton improve them?

Those questions, and how much of Bobrovsky 2013 turns up in the 2014 edition, will dictate whether the Blue Jackets can steal an invitation to the playoffs in their first year in the East.

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