Columbus has a serious Vezina candidate in Bobrovsky

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Where would the Columbus Blue Jackets be without Sergei Bobrovsky?

Not in the playoff race, that’s for sure.

Bobrovsky was brilliant again last night in a 1-0 shootout loss to the Canucks in Vancouver. The 24-year-old stopped all 34 shots he faced in 65 minutes and was named the game’s first star for his efforts.

With his third shutout of the season, Bobrovsky’s save percentage rose all the way to .930, second among those with at least 10 starts to Ottawa’s injured netminder, Craig Anderson (.952).

Jackets defenseman Adrian Aucoin certainly appreciates what Bobrovsky has done for the team.

“It just makes less pressure for everybody else,” Aucoin said recently, per NHL.com. “You get that confidence where even if you give up a two-on-one, you have a feeling he’ll make that save. You’re never worried about him so you worry about the things that matter more to you. … It’s a luxury to have guys you can count on.”

At a cost of three draft picks, Bobrovsky was traded to Columbus in June from Philadelphia. Unfortunately for since-fired general manager Scott Howson, the move came at least a year too late. If Howson had successfully addressed his team’s goaltending the previous summer, instead of rolling the dice with Steve Mason, the nightmare season of 2011-12 would likely have gone quite differently.

At the very least, Howson can say he landed a Vezina candidate for the Jackets.

In a few months, he might be able to say he landed a Vezina winner.

Other candidates in the wide-open race for best goalie include Anderson, Henrik Lundqvist, Tuukka Rask, Carey Price, Jimmy Howard, Marc-Andre Fleury, Antti Niemi, Corey Crawford, Niklas Backstrom, Pekka Rinne, Kari Lehtonen, and making a late charge, Cory Schneider.

Again, it’s wide open.

But if the season ended today, Bobrovsky would be right in the conversation.

And if he can do the impossible and get the Jackets into the playoffs, well, how could anyone vote against him?