It's a hockey cliche, the willingness to sacrifice one's body for the good of the team. Saturday night the Columbus Blue Jackets' Vladislav Gavrikov proved he has no fear of putting his body in the line of fire during the 4-1 loss to the Florida Panthers.
Defending a second period Panther power play, Gavrikov blocked three consecutive Mike Hoffman slap shots to hold the score and keep the Blue Jackets in the game. While blocked shots are an emphasized part of the teamss' game plan, rarely does one see a player willingly take three 100-mph, frozen projectiles to the body to prevent scoring chances.
However, the play was no big deal for Gavrikov.
Speaking to the media in his post-game comments, Gavrikov had to take a second to remember how many shots he had stopped from Hoffman. "Three I guess," he said, perhaps having trouble remembering because of the high amount in a small window.
He even dismissed the the play had hurt at all. "No, I'm good (on injuries). No worries," he said with a little cheer.
Gavrikov continued to state the importance of blocking shots on the penalty kill, especially when trailing in a game.
"Blocked shots are about effort on a PK (penalty kill)," he said. "It's a great opportunity after the PK...to score a couple goals and win the game."
Unfortunately for the Columbus club, those post-shot block opportunities didn't lead to the number of goals required to win. However, it did lead to a Gavrikov goal early in the third period.
Gavrikov's press conference ended on a familiar refrain for the Blue Jackets this season: offensive chances, but no finish. "We had some chances for goals - some power play, some good shots - but we couldn't score," Gavrikov said.
When asked if that experience was "frustrating," he said:
"Of course (it's frustrating)...but we have another game. So we keep going and going and (keep) our heads up and get back to work."
Gavrikov had a huge play in the second period of Saturday night's contest, keeping a struggling team in a tight game. However, the team couldn't capitalize on their chances to take advantage of such a gutsy play.
If the Blue Jackets hope to improve their play this season, they'll have to work on capitalizing on these key plays from their hard-working players. They'll need to improve to ensure another individual effort like Gavrikov's is not wasted.