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Block party: Savard, Gavrikov put their bodies on the line for the team

Blue Jackets defensemen earn credit for their shot blocking skills

by Jeff Svoboda @JacketsInsider / BlueJackets.com

David Savard knows how Vladislav Gavrikov felt. 

That's because he's felt it 771 times. 

That's how many times Savard has blocked a shot in his Blue Jackets career, and his 766th block -- which came in Monday's win over the Washington Capitals -- allowed him to set the franchise record in the painful stat.  

So when Gavrikov blocked three bazookas in a row off the stick of Mike Hoffman during Saturday night's game at Florida -- the second of which left the Russian defenseman in clear pain, and the third of which sent his head arching skyward in misery -- Savard clearly could relate.  

"It was pretty awesome," Savard said. "I think it shows how much (courage) he's got. It was almost comical at the end, the third one, but I think it fired up our bench a little bit. Everyone was pumped after. That's why you go out there and do it.  

"It's not fun. We've all been in that spot that it's back-to-back blocks, or a puck is coming back and you just have to go back and try to block it again. He even tried for a fourth one. It kind of shows his character and it's great to see he did that for our team." 

After the game, Gavrikov shook off questions about how the sequence just as easily as he shook off the in-game pain, as of course he was back on the ice shortly after his blocks to skate a regular shift. 

"I'm good," he said in the locker room. "No worries." 

To John Tortorella, the moment showed the kind of commitment he hopes to see from players, which is one reason Gavrikov's blocked shots were part of the pre-practice video the head coach showed the team ahead of Monday's win at Washington.  

"Where some other guys in situation in the same game weren't too excited about doing something like that," Tortorella said. "He just plays hard, and that's taking one for the team. I just showed the sequence to the whole team here with our video vs. some non-shows as far as situations like that." 

To Tortorella and his defensemen, there's an art to blocking a shot. It starts with simply getting in the way at first, as a player must have the presence of mind to be in a shooting lane to even have a chance. Then it's about taking up space -- and having the courage to do so. While many guys get in the way but don't look like they're enjoying it, the true shot blockers like Savard lay their bodies on the line and try to get as big in front of the shot as possible. Smart uses of padding like the shin guard are also encouraged.  

A key example of that came in the Nov. 15 win vs. St. Louis when Savard made a key block in overtime. With the Blues on a power play in the extra frame, the team had a 3-on-1 in front of the net, but Savard got in front of the puck to thwart a key scoring chance. Moments later, the Blue Jackets won in overtime on a power play of their own.  

A game later when the Blue Jackets hosted Montreal, Ben Chiarot had a great look in front of the net in the second period, but Savard made perhaps his most unusual block ever. He was on his knees facing the net when Chiarot got the shot off, but Savard was able to get his derriere in front of the puck to deny the goal-scoring opportunity, prompting Tortorella to call it a "great ass block." 

"He is that willing," Tortorella said. "He's always been that way. I've never said one word to him. Him and (Boone Jenner), I haven't said one word to them. They know how to block shots. I think there's more of a want to block shots than some other people.  

"If you want to block that shot, you find ways to get big. You can turn your body bigger. Other guys get smaller. They are basically saying, 'The coach told me to block the shot. I don't really want to do it, but I'm going to try.' They can get small that way. These guys want to block shots." 

For Savard, there was no trophy presentation for passing Jack Johnson for his new record, though one could see a cheeky teammate perhaps framing an ice pack or a shin guard in his honor. It's not the kind of record that one sets out to break in their career, but it's one Savard truly has earned.  

"I don't really keep track of that," Savard said. "I never thought about it, but it's just part of my game." 

As the team found out in Florida, it's in Gavrikov's DNA, too. Welcome to the block party.  

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