Recognizing the NHL's best this season

It all starts with Bob

Goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, nicknamed Bob, has been the backbone of Columbus' playoff push. He has kept the Blue Jackets in the mix in the West; it's a low-scoring team that's adapting well to its first experience with pressure.

"It was frustrating losing, 2-1, all the time and now they win a lot of games, 2-1. They bend. They don't break," said John Davidson, the club's president of hockey operations and a former NHL goalie. "Bob's been Bob. He's been good. And the team defense, along with the actual defense, they're pretty good."

Bobrovsky, acquired from Philadelphia in June, has given the Blue Jackets a hard-working, blue-collar identity. Winger Marian Gaborik, who waived his no-trade clause to go from the New York Rangers to Columbus on April 3, has brought pizzazz and scoring potential.

Gaborik's arrival was a pivotal moment for the Blue Jackets, who traded an unhappy Jeff Carter to the Kings last season. Columbus owns three first-round picks in the June draft but had to give fans some immediate hope. Gaborik was the answer

"It's important to us," Davidson said. "It's one of my missions to tell the hockey world how good a place Columbus is. They've got all the tools. It's a great facility. It's a really nice city. It's a good place to raise a family. It's a good sports city. We just need to keep proving our worth as a hockey club to have that expand."

They can do that by making the playoffs for the second time in 12 seasons.

"This has been a real good eye-opening experience for this club," Davidson said. "It's taught us things as management regarding some players, and at the same time for them it goes right into the bank account as something they've learned and played hard with. It wouldn't surprise me one bit if this team gets in."

helene.elliott@latimes.com

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