It was a case of “close but no cigar” for the Columbus Blue Jackets recently as their 16-game winning streak was snapped at the hands of the Washington Capitals. The Capitals handed them a 5-0 beating at home at the Verizon Center in on January 5th while the Blue Jackets were attempting to tie the Pittsburgh Penguins for the NHL record of 17 consecutive victories which they set in 1992/93. Blue Jackets’ netminder Sergei Bobrovsky also saw his 14-game winning streak end in the same game as he was pulled during the third period after surrendering five goals on 23 shots. Columbus won two of their 16 games in overtime and one in a shootout, but ultimately fell one game short of joining the Penguins in the history book.
It’s certainly a turnaround for the Blue Jackets as they were the second-worst club in the Eastern Conference and worst in the Metropolitan Division last campaign with a record 34-40-8 of for 76 points . They struggled right from the get-go in 2015/16 as they kicked off the year with an eight-game losing string. However, it looks like controversial head coach John Tortorella has pulled all of the right strings so far this season as they were leading the Metropolitan Division and Eastern Conference with 60 points at 28-7-4 on January 9th. Tortorella has been managing to get the most out of his lineup considering the squad isn’t laden with all stars.
The Blue Jackets have been getting excellent goaltending from former Vezina Trophy winner Bobrovsky while rookie defenceman Zach Werenski has been better than anybody expected. Forward Brandon Saad, who is a two-time Stanley Cup winner, has also been a key player along with captain Nick Foligno. Columbus is one of the league’s youngest teams when it comes to the average age of the players as well as their years of NHL experience. The franchise entered the league in 2000/01 and has made the playoffs just twice and has yet to win a series. As a matter of fact, the team has just two postseason victories in its history.
Columbus would have to basically collapse to miss the playoffs this season though due to their recent winning streak which lasted from November. 29th to January 5th. Their previous defeat was a shootout loss to Florida on November 26th. At that time, the Blue Jackets were sitting in fourth spot in the Metropolitan Division at 11-5-4. Their streak started on November 29th with a convincing 5-1 home win over Tampa Bay. Their fourth win of the streak came on December 5th with a 4-1 decision over Arizona and it was also the 500th victory in their franchise history. The ninth game was a 4-3 overtime triumph in Vancouver and was the 500th win in Tortorella’s career.
By the time the 16-game streak had ended, the team had climbed to the top of the NHL’s overall standings with the league’s best record and they gave up three or more goals just three times during the run. Between 1992/93 and the current season, the closest an NHL team came to equaling Pittsburgh’s 17-game record was the Penguins themselves when they ran off 15 straight victories in the 2012/13 season which was shortened to 48 games due to a labour lockout. Columbus lost for a second straight time after the streak ended when they dropped a 5-4 decision to the New York Rangers, but then rebounded with 2-1 win over Philadelphia the next night, January 8th.