Columbus Blue Jackets fans are clear when it comes to who their MVP is in this abbreviated NHL season, where the 13-12-6 club is on a 12-game point streak and are in playoff contention with 32 points:
Sergei Bobrovsky. Is this even a competition? tweeted @DaveSeaman94, when the question was posed via the social media outlet, Twitter, to fans earlier this week.
MVP Bobrovskyand its sic not close. Jackets were not scoring and he kept them in it, tweeted @smf360 of the goalie whos 8-0-2 with a 0.98 GAA and a .967 SV percentage in his last ten appearances. Bobrovsky is 11-6-5 (2.00 GAA, .932 SV) overall. Hes also won back-to-back NHL three stars honors for his current streak.
He's had a mental toughness thats sic contagious. Everyone in front of him looks up the ice, not back at him. security, tweeted @kissmyaspie.
Coming in a close second for fan MVP was veteran Vinny Prospal, who earned his 500th career assist in Tuesdays regulation win over Nashville and is leading the club offensively with nine goals.
His veteran leadership is what has kept the CBJ together during the season (with) everything that has happened, tweeted @tcurrent, a thought supported by fellow Twitter fan @ProjectPsion: He's been producing more than what he's expected to, plus he's playing as if he's the Captain.
Fedur Tyutin, Jack Johnson, Mark Letestu and Matt Calvert were also among fan MVPs so far this season.
Prospal, when informed of his fan favorite status Thursday, smiled broadly and said, Im not gonna deny it doesnt feel good, but Im just piece of the puzzle, he said. Im just part of this hockey team and right now it feels damn great.
Evidence of the total team effort its taking for this hockey club to maintain its current hot streak was last nights 5-1 dousing of the Calgary Flames when the club got goals from Colton Gillies, Artem Anisimov, Jared Boll and Nick Foligno. Gillies got his first point of the season with an assist on Bolls first period goal and then got his first goal of the season in the third period.
Foligno broke R. J. Umbergers former record of quickest two goals by a single player (1:29) with a second period flurry of two goals scored :41 seconds apart. Anisimovs goal right after helped break another club record: Fastest three goals scored by multiple players. Foligno and Anisimov managed it in 1:15. It was previously held by Bruce Gardiner, David Vyborny and Steve Heinze at 1:46.
Twitter CBJ fan @frickendannie recognized the package deal with her tweet that said its easy to say Bobrovosky is the star, but they are all playing so cohesively that I honestly do not think any one guy is more valuable than another, she tweeted. They're all playing their roles, showing up as a team.
Head coach Todd Richards agreed with that fan analysis: Its tough to say its this guy or that guy, said Richards Thursday after practice. When you have runs like this, it takes everyone.
Richards, of course, recognizes the undisputable value of goaltender Bobrovosky to keep his team in the W column, as do the players.
We feeling a lot of confidence from him, said Prospal, adding that its confidence thats keeping the club motivated right now, among other thingsincluding respect from the league and their opponents. Its the factor of belief that when every game starts 0-0 we have a chance to win. Were not just some team that sits at the bottom of the standings. We out there to win those hockey games.
The league is noticing, the other teams are noticing, the players know its not going to be easy game and thats what you look for, said Prospal. We dont have any superstars, but we got players that play well under this system, and thats whats make a good team successful.
It hasnt always been this way for the Blue Jackets. Fans recall all too well the days when the CBJ would absolutely collapse in front of their home crowd against any team. Their mental game defeated in a culture that was defined by its losses.
That all began to change when former coach Scott Arniel was fired and Richards was brought in. Then John Davidson was hired to re-build the organization brick-by-brick. Then former captain Rick Nash (no, no plans to name a new captain as of now) was traded to the New York Rangers. Then general manager Jarmo Kekalainen came in and former GM Scott Howson was out.
But Twitter fans were quick to point out that Howson was responsible for some of the moves the team is enjoying now.
Howsonhe brought us Bob (Bobrovosky), Dubi (Brandon Dubinsky), Arte (Anisimov), (Tim) Erixon, Letestuall major contributors, said @SoupDoggy. Twitter CBJ fan @JTBratton agreed, Without him we wouldn't have nearly the pieces that people are voting for. For what it's worth.
Despite the support, no one can deny the shift in culture has caused a shift in attitude.
Its a transition period, said Prospal. Its a transition into a changing culture; changing of what has been here in the past.
And Richards, under the strength of a leadership team that does not take failure as an option, has turned what was formerly perceived as a rag-tag, last place team into something to be admired.
( Todd Richards) Managed to get complete buy-in of these guys, tweeted @RedditCBJ. (People have) Completely underestimated the effect he's had.
So what did Richards do to get the players to buy in? According to Prospal, it all started with the system of play hes coaching.
Thats where it starts. You cant have the coaching staff on a different page than the players. Its something they have been working on. Now its paying dividends, said Prospal. Ive been talking about the players, but for (the coaching staff) its the same thing. They dont want to go to the rink when theres a losing attitude, when you lose every day, when you show up and get embarrassed. They part of this team as well.
Richards is humble when asked how his team has gotten this far. It wouldnt be like him to take the credit for something his players have rightfully earnedthe mental fortitude it took to work through the losing times at the start of the season until they got bit by the bug of winning confidence in their current streak.
It comes from everyone, said Richards. Its easy in this business to get really negative. Its real easy. But a quote I live by is Pain is inevitable, but misery is optional. Losing is hard. Its hard on everything. But its always your attitude and choices the next day on how youre going to react to it. Are you going to be miserable as a coach? Are you going to be miserable as a player? Or are we going to use last night, what we learned from that, and are we going to use today to get better? I think thats what everyone did.
Richards said the players could sense in those one-goal losses just before the hot streak that, even though they were losing, they were about to turn a corner.
I think they started to sense it, they started to see it, like were playing better, were just about there, said Richards. And now theyre reaping the benefits of those struggles. To me thats what makes it more rewarding. Now the big test is: Can we keep this going?
Richards said, inevitably, something is going to happen. Whether its something in a game or an injury or the difficulty of travelinghis team will have to rally. But this is a Coach who isnt afraid of a challengeor helping his team work through one.
Were going to get tested, going out on the road and playing in some tough buildings. And just the travel in general, said Richards. But I love the challenge of it. I like it when its harder. To me it makes it more rewarding when you succeed.
The challenge starts tonight against the Nashville Predators with the teams first of four road games. You can watch the game starting at 8 p.m. on Fox Sports Ohio or by listening to 97.1 The Fan.