The team’s winning streak came to an end at 16, good enough to grant them the second-longest NHL winning streak in history – just behind the Pittsburgh Penguins, who won 17 games in a row in the 1992-1993 season.
The Blue Jackets are now 27-6-4, good for first place in the Metropolitan Division, and they’ve got an awful lot to be proud of.
It seems increasingly hard to make history in these cynical times, but the Blue Jackets put on an incredible show that very nearly made history. One of the reasons their team’s story has been so captivating is that it’s been so unexpected.
After all, Columbus wasn’t even supposed to make the playoffs.
They finished last place in the division last season, with a 34-40-8 record. Head coach Todd Richards was canned in favour of John Tortorella. And their young core, while being “fun to watch,” was supposed to offer more of the same in 2016-2017.
Of course, unpacking the streak reveals a lot going on under the hood in Columbus.
Consider the third game of the streak, when they dominated the Arizona Coyotes with 60 shots on goal but barely pulled out a 3-2 victory thanks to the play of Mike Smith. The following game found the Blue Jackets knocking off the Coyotes again, setting the stage for a run that would make headlines.
By the ninth game of the streak, coach Tortorella picked up his 500th career win against the team that fired him in Vancouver. And the Blue Jackets squeaked out the win in overtime.
By December 22, Columbus wasn’t just formidable. They were knocking off the Pittsburgh Penguins by a final score of 7-1 and Scott Hartnell was snagging a hat trick. They beat the Canadiens, the Bruins, the Jets, the Wild, the Oilers…
Now, it’s over.
But now, the Blue Jackets have every reason to be proud of themselves. Even though they were shut out by Braden Holtby and the Capitals, they were riding an 18-game point streak and seem primed to pile up even more wins and points in the games to come.
In other words, the streak may be over for Columbus but the season isn’t. This is a team that can make the playoffs, despite my own prediction, and this is a team to watch in the weeks and months to come.