The statement below, made by Elvis Merzlikins, One of the Columbus Blue Jackets Goaltenders, says it all.
“I don’t want to make any promises, but I can tell you … my plan is to win a Vezina Trophy. I’m gonna win a … Vezina for him. We can’t make promises because this is hockey and we don’t know how the season can go, but this is my goal. I believe I’m going to reach it.” (Atlantic and my source https://www.nhl.com/news/blue-jackets-merzlikins-wants-to-win-vezina-for-kivlenieks/c-326091698).
I keep following this story, set in motion by the lost of another great Blue Jackets Goaltender, Matiss Kivlenieks, because I feel it is necessary. True fans will never forget him, as well as his former team members, spread out around the globe. I believe it has always been Merzlikins goal to play his best hockey every game, however, nothing is more motivating than a desire to make someone proud. Kivlenieks was his “brother”, as we all know, and as such his statement above does not surprise me in the least.
For those unaware, the Vezina trophy is one of the NHL’s most prestigious awards, which is given to the best goaltender each season, within the league. With his .916 Save Percentage last season, Merzlikins goal is surely obtainable without the motivation of Kivlenieks memory, or his brand new son, Knox, factored into the equation. He opened up further, in his interview, stating how therapy after the loss has helped him. Going on to say this in part. “Obviously I miss my friend. But this is what surprises me, that I’m really not in pain and it’s not disturbing me to focus on my life. I’m happy that I can move on. When I talk about him, I have no problem at all. When I talk about him, it comes from my heart, and you want to cry, but I cry from happiness, not from sadness. I believe he made me stronger.” (https://www.nhl.com/news/blue-jackets-merzlikins-wants-to-win-vezina-for-kivlenieks/c-326091698).
Merzlikins also made it very clear that he understands this season will be shard between himself, and another Blue Jackets Goaltender, Joonas Korpisalo. This has not deterred him from the goal stated above, but just driven him more, as he knows he has to perform at his best, in every game, to accomplish that Vezina Trophy. It would be the ultimate tribute to Kivlenieks, and the very unique bond these two Latvian men shared. One which transcended the sport of hockey.
The 5th Line is behind you, all the way Merzlikins, all the way.