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Vezina Trophy is just the beginning for Bobrovsky

by Rob Mixer / Columbus Blue Jackets

Winning the Vezina Trophy is an enormous accomplishment for 24-year-old Sergei Bobrovsky, but a new opportunity born from change may be even bigger.

Coming from an organization which signed him out of Russia and helped put him on track to become a solid, young NHL goaltender, Bobrovsky perhaps needed a change of scenery and a new challenge to jump-start his career after things got stale for the Flyers following the 2010-11 season. It was deemed time for change between the pipes and Bobrovsky was no longer "the guy."

He continued to work - that's pretty much his hallmark, if you talk to goaltending observers around the sport - and push forward in pursuit of getting another crack at being a No. 1 goaltender in the NHL. When he was traded to the Blue Jackets a year ago, his life and career completely changed.

Perhaps exactly what Bobrovsky needed was to take the reins of the Blue Jackets and be part of the club's extensive remake that began at the 2012 NHL Draft, selecting Ryan Murray at No. 2 overall and selecting two other young goaltenders to form a solid pipeline for the organization. A few weeks later, it was the acquisitions of Nick Foligno, Adrian Aucoin, and then the blockbuster deal with the New York Rangers that brought three players and a first-round draft pick back to Columbus.

The re-shaping was in full swing, and when John Davidson came aboard in October, there was a new confidence and attitude instituted.

Bobrovsky, who began the 2012-13 season in Russia's Kontinental Hockey League and played extremely well for SKA, became one of the players who embodied the "one brick at a time" approach of Davidson and new GM Jarmo Kekalainen. The tireless worker, who can most often be found riding the stationary bike if he's not on the ice or sitting in his locker stall, instantly earned the respect of his teammates for his relentless work ethic.

When the season began and the Blue Jackets' identity began to take shape, it was clear who was leading the charge. Bobrovsky's .932 regular-season save percentage - the second-best in the NHL - was made possible in large part because of his refusal to give up on pucks and his determination to play through to the whistle.

His teammates spoke glowingly about his approach and how easy it is to play hard for him, and when Steve Mason was dealt to the Flyers at the trade deadline, it became 100 percent clear who the "top cop" in goal was for the Blue Jackets.

As this young club continues to mature and develop into a hopeful contender in the next few years, it will do so around a number of building blocks - bricks, you might call them - put in place by Davidson and Kekalainen.

Though Bobrovsky was a piece acquired from the previous regime, it's no secret that the current group in charge wants him locked up and solidified as the No. 1 goaltender for years to come.

It's the opportunity he craved for years, and thanks to the persistence he's so widely known for, Bobrovsky's 2012-13 Vezina Trophy winning season may just be the tip of the iceberg.

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