There were a lot of folks calling on Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen to trade his two prized Russians by the trading deadline. He held and that's paying off.
Because, well, Sergei Bobrovsky and Artemi Panarin are undoubtably the Blue Jackets' best and most valuable players, and last night, they really showed us why.
The Russian duo punched the Blue Jackets playoff ticket, Panarin scoring a late third period goal (which should have been the game winner), followed by the shootout winner, and Bobrovsky stopped 25 of 27 shots and three shootout attempts, and had a nearly season-saving save towards the end of regulation when the game was tied.
To discredit the Ryan Dzingel tying-goal at the start of the third period or the incredibly solid defensive play by Seth Jones and Zach Werenski would be foolish - but if you watched the game, you know who essentially won the Blue Jackets the game.
Which, folks, just makes so much sense based on how dramatic this season has been for the club, on and off the ice.
It started with reports last summer of the two superstars both being unwilling at the time to negotiate long-term deals. This moved to continuous trade speculation for the entire fall and early winter, and finally to a nail-bitting trade deadline where...
...the Blue Jackets held their ground and didn't dish their two best players.
The move to not trade Panarin and Bobrovsky got mixed reactions across the hockey world initially, and still to this day. Some praised the Blue Jackets for going "all in" and risking the loss of their stars, and others blasted them for being foolish and impatient.
Last night, though, showed that the gamble paid off (for now, at least). The club kept its prized stars for this exact reason - to show up in the clutch, help them get a playoff birth, and lead them on a run for the Stanley Cup.
Who knows what these two still have left in the tank? Panarin is currently breaking his own record for points and assists in a single season for the Blue Jackets (and himself) and Bobrovsky is having one of the hottest stretches of his career (10-3-0 in his final 13 games, with a .946 SV%, 1.54 GAA and four shutouts).
Would the organization have liked to clinch their playoff spot, say, two weeks ago? Absolutely - but without Panarin and Bobrovsky, it's nightmarish to think where the team would be right now.
Which again, will spark more debate, especially depending on how this upcoming week goes. What if the Blue Jackets play the Tampa Bay Lightning and get swept? The gamble surely wouldn't be "worth it" then, right?
Sure. But the focus is right now. The trade deadline has passed. There's nothing to complain about that can be undone. The gamble is continuing to pay off - but certainly hasn't done its final duty yet.
Here's to seeing what Panarin and Bobrovsky have to offer the Blue Jackets in what could be their final few weeks or months with the club.
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