Blue Jackets-Avalanche Preview
If the Columbus Blue Jackets qualify for the postseason, Sergei Bobrovsky deserves plenty of the credit.
He'll look to help guide visiting Columbus to a fourth consecutive victory as it continues its playoff push Monday night against the last-place Colorado Avalanche.
The Blue Jackets (19-16-7) had an NHL-worst 13 points after their fourth consecutive defeat March 1, but they're 14-4-3 since and battling Detroit, Dallas and Phoenix for the final Western Conference playoff berth.
Bobrovsky has been a major reason for the turnaround as Columbus eyes its second postseason appearance. He's 13-4-3 with a 1.48 goals-against average and four shutouts during the past 21 games, and his 2.01 GAA on the season ranks among the league leaders.
He made 39 saves and denied both shootout attempts as Columbus won for the sixth time in eight games Saturday, 3-2 over Minnesota.
Bobrovsky has stopped 100 of 103 shots faced during the team's winning streak.
"Our goalie was better than their goalie, by a wide margin,'' coach Todd Richards said. "He earned us the two points.''
Richards, though, wasn't happy with the play in front of his netminder that allowed the Wild to run up the high shot total. Vinny Prospal and Fedor Tyutin scored less than 2 1/2 minutes apart in the second period, but the coach expects more from his team over the final six games.
"You aren't going to complain about a win or anything like that, but we've got to be a lot better,'' Richards said.
Defenseman Jack Johnson agreed. Columbus outscored its previous two opponents 8-1.
"I think we played better (Friday in a 4-1 win over St. Louis) than we did (Saturday)," Johnson said. "Sometimes you win games that you shouldn't.''
Colorado may be thinking similarly after defenseman Jan Hejda admittedly had his eyes closed when scoring the winning goal with 7.6 seconds remaining in a 4-3 victory over Vancouver on Saturday.
The Avalanche (14-22-6) rallied from two third-period deficits to improve to 2-0-1 since goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere blasted their lackluster effort versus Calgary in a 3-1 loss last Monday, the team's fifth straight.
Giguere has stepped up his play as well, making 24 saves Saturday after stopping 33 of 34 shots over the previous two. Despite the improved play, Colorado is on the brink of being eliminated from playoff contention for the third consecutive season.
''I felt we were only going through the motions. This is not the team we want to be,'' Giguere said. ''We want to build something for the future here. This wasn't the year we were expecting. We only have ourselves to blame for that.''
Giguere could be in net again Monday. He hasn't faced Columbus since Nov. 13, 2009, but he's 15-3-3 with a 1.98 GAA in his last 21 games against the Blue Jackets.
Columbus has taken three of the past four meetings, winning the latest 2-1 in overtime March 3 on Artem Anisimov's power-play goal.
Bobrovsky made 18 saves in that contest and is 2-1-0 with a 2.30 GAA in three career starts versus Colorado.