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Another shutout for Bobrovsky as he steals one for Blue Jackets

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Sergei Bobrovsky continued to make his case for the Vezina Trophy on Saturday afternoon when he stopped all 36 shots he faced in a 1-0 win over the Philadelphia Flyers.

The win helped the Blue Jackets avoid what would have been their first three-game losing streak of the season.

In a game where his team was outshot by a 36-21 margin and managed just a single goal (an Alexander Wennberg tally in the second period), it would not be unfair to say that he probably stole a couple of points for his team as the Blue Jackets continue to compete with the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins for the top spot in both the Eastern Conference and the entire NHL.

Bobrovsky being the difference in a game is nothing new for the Blue Jackets lately because he has been a brick wall in their net for much of the season. But for as good as his performance has been overall, it is over the past few weeks where he has really started to establish himself as a Vezina Trophy front runner.

With his win on Saturday the Blue Jackets are now 9-0-2 in his past 11 starts.

Bobrovsky remains the NHL’s leader in pretty much every major goaltending category, collecting his 40th win (first in the NHL), raising his overall save percentage to .934 (also first in the NHL), his even-strength save percentage to .940 (also first in the NHL), and recording his seventh shutout (tied for second, just one behind Braden Holtby).

He has four shutouts in the month of March alone.

There are a lot of factors you can point to for the Blue Jackets’ massive turnaround this season, but none of them have been bigger at this point than the play of Bobrovsky.

He has already won the Vezina Trophy once in his career, and he is putting together a pretty convincing argument to win it again this season.

Capitals defeat Blue Jackets in clash of Metropolitan Division powers

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WASHINGTON (AP) T.J. Oshie scored the shootout winner as the Washington Capitals overcame a stellar performance from Columbus goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky to beat the Blue Jackets 2-1 Thursday night.

Despite 44 saves from Bobrovsky, the Capitals reached 104 points and extended their lead atop the Metropolitan Division and NHL standings. Oshie engendered memories of his Sochi Olympic shootout performance by again beating Bobrovsky, the goalie he scored on four times in six chances that day.

Dmitry Orlov finally cracked Bobrovsky early in the third period on Washington’s 35th shot of the game. Orlov’s goal tied the score after Seth Jones beat Braden Holtby on a wild scramble early in the third for his first goal since Feb. 7.

Holtby had 29 saves in regulation and overtime and three more in the shootout to pick up his 38th victory of the season, one shy of Bobrovsky for the league lead.

A showdown between two of the top three teams in the league jockeying for position atop the Metropolitan Division lacked a playoff feel. But the matchup of two likely Vezina Trophy finalists lived up to that billing as Bobrovsky and Holtby went back and forth with big saves.

Bobrovsky entered the night first in wins, goals-against average and save percentage with Holtby second, second and third in those categories. The 2013 Vezina winner could also be an MVP contender this season given his value to Columbus’ third playoff berth in franchise history.

“When he’s in his game it’s very hard to score on him,” said Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin, who had eight shots stopped by one of his Russian national teammates. “He likes the big moments, he likes pressure. His worth ethic is unbelievable. … In my opinion he’s one of the best goalies in the league right now.”

Video: Leafs’ Carrick delivers thunderous hit on Blue Jackets’ Anderson

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Both the Columbus Blue Jackets and Toronto Maple Leafs have motivation to win their Wednesday game, but the Maple Leafs need it more.

So far, it shows, too.

The Maple Leafs have raced off to a 2-0 lead, with Auston Matthews scoring his 33rd goal of the season. If generating such offense didn’t highlight the urgency, Connor Carrick‘s huge hit on Josh Anderson makes a compelling argument. Witness that big impact in the video above.

There was also another high-impact moment when Nick Foligno went crashing into the boards:

Blue Jackets clinch playoff spot thanks to two penalty shot goals vs. Devils

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The Columbus Blue Jackets are on their way to the playoffs for the first time since the 2014-15 season and only the third time in franchise history.  They officially punched their tickets to the postseason on Sunday afternoon with a 4-1 win over the New Jersey Devils.

It was a rather unconventional win, too, at least when you consider how the Blue Jackets scored their goals — two penalty shots (one of which came while shorthanded), a shorthanded goal and an empty net.

Not really the way most teams draw it up, but it worked for the Blue Jackets on Sunday.

It is only the third time in NHL history that a team has scored on two penalty shots in the same game.

Lukas Sedlak opened the scoring for Columbus early in the first period when he scored on his first career penalty shot attempt after he was hooked on a breakaway by Devils captain Andy Greene. The Blue Jackets added to that lead just a few minutes later when Boone Jenner, following an incredible individual effort, was able to get a fortunate bounce on a shot from below the goal line.

Midway through the second period Brandon Dubinsky scored on a penalty shot of his own.

Along with clinching a playoff spot on Sunday the Blue Jackets also reached the 100-point mark for the first time in franchise history. For a team that finished the 2015-16 season as one of the NHL’s worst and entered this season with almost no expectations this has been a pretty drastic one-year turnaround as they are now tied with the Washington Capitals for the best record in the NHL with less than a month to play in the regular season. Probably not what anybody expected to see at the start of the year.

Blue Jackets without Alexander Wennberg today vs. Devils

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The Columbus Blue Jackets have a chance to clinch a playoff berth on Sunday afternoon if they can defeat the New Jersey Devils.

They will have to do it without their top center, Alexander Wennberg.

Wennberg will not play on Sunday due to a stiff neck and is being held out as a precaution according to coach John Tortorella (via Aaron Portzline of the Columbus-Dispatch).

The 22-year-old center played 16 minutes for the Blue Jackets on Saturday night but was on the receiving end of a hit from Ryan Strome that sent him head first into the boards and left him shaken up.

Wennberg has been one of the Blue Jackets’ breakout stars this season and one of the driving forces behind their stunning season that has them in contention for the best record in the NHL down the stretch. He is currently the Blue Jackets’ second leading scorer with 54 points (12 goals, 42 assists) in 70 games this season. He only recorded 60 points total in his first two years in the league.

With Wennberg out of Sunday’s game William Karlsson will take his spot on the Blue Jackets’ top line.