Sergei Bobrovsky has made a big first impression with the Columbus Blue Jackets this season.
None would be bigger than leading the young franchise into the playoffs.
The Blue Jackets look to stay in the playoff race with a fourth straight victory on Monday night as they visit the last-place Colorado Avalanche.
Acquired from the Philadelphia Flyers on June 22 for a trio of draft picks, the 24-year-old Bobrovsky has gone 16-10-6 with four shutouts, a 2.01 goals against average and .932 save percentage in 32 games this season. He has played his way into Vezina Trophy talks and has allowed more than two goals just once in his past seven games.
Bobrovsky made 39 saves and another two stops in the shootout on Saturday to lift Columbus to a 3-2 victory over the Minnesota Wild, earning the bulk of the credit from head coach Todd Richards.
"This was 'The Bob Show.' It was all by himself," said Blue Jackets head coach Todd Richards.
"Getting ready for our next game in Colorado, we're going to have a lot better than what we had tonight."
Vinny Prospal and Fedor Tyutin had goals less than three minutes apart in the second period for Columbus, while Mark Letestu and Cameron Atkinson had the shootout tallies in the club's sixth victory in eight games.
By winning the opener of a six-game road trip, and moving to just 6-11-2 as the guest this season, the Blue Jackets are tied with Dallas and two points behind Detroit and Minnesota for West's final playoff spots. The Stars have a game in hand and visit the Chicago Blackhawks on Monday, while Detroit is idle. The Wild are playing in Calgary.
The Blue Jackets are aiming to make the playoffs for just the second time since joining the league as an expansion club in 2000-01. They were swept out of the first round in the 2009 postseason.
The Avalanche won't be going to the postseason for a third straight year and had lost six of seven and 14 of their previous 17 prior to Saturday's 4-3 win over the Vancouver Canucks. Colorado is last in the Western Conference with 34 points, two more than the Florida Panthers, who occupy the basement in the East.
Still, the Avs showed some heart versus the Canucks and got the winning goal from Jan Hejda with 7.6 seconds to play when he ripped a one-timer past Vancouver's Cory Schneider for his first score in 55 games.
"There's not too much time to think about taking a shot. I just took it and thankfully it was a good one," Hejda said. "I do not think that they played their best game today, but we played well. We just had to keep it simple, and kept the puck in their zone."
P.A. Parenteau, Cody McLeod and Gabriel Landeskog also tallied for the Avalanche. Jean-Sebastien Giguere stopped 24-of-27 shots in the victory, becoming the 10th active goaltender to reach 250 career wins.
The Blue Jackets have won three of their last four versus the Avalanche, but did drop their most recent trip to Colorado 4-0 on Jan. 24. Columbus has lost five of its last seven in Denver.