The Columbus Blue Jackets have spent just shy of twenty percent of an entire National Hockey League schedule on a win streak. All in a row. Sixteen, honest-to-Boomer, consecutive victories. This is a fact that no sane person should ever expect to reflect upon, and yet it happened. We were lucky enough to witness a run from November 29, through the entire calendar month of December, and into a new year in which the Blue Jackets never lost. Yes, those very same Columbus Blue Jackets who were fighting for last place in the NHL as recently as last year.
As has been true of the National Hockey League throughout its 100 year existence, no team has gone perfect an entire year. And, as has been repeated ad nauseum over the past week, no team has ever won more than 17 consecutive games. That fact will continue to be true, as the Columbus winning streak met its end in Washington.
For me, the mind-blowing proportions of the win streak were best explored by Down Goes Brown earlier today. The descent into madness as an outside observer is the hook to the approach. To quote his reaction to the unbelievable CBJ victory over Pittsburgh, “NOTHING MAKES SENSE ANYMORE.”
Sense came crashing back to Earth in unpleasant fashion, with the Capitals winning 5-0. It was a loud thud at the end of a sparkling story in Columbus, and the close of the greatest chapter to-date in Blue Jackets franchise history.
The streak is dead.
The Bad: Bobrovsky, The Dubinsky Line, and The Power Play
Reigning Vezina winner Braden Holtby had an outstanding night, which is reason enough for frustration. That so many other things went wrong for Columbus helps explain the lopsided score.
Sergei Bobrovsky was bad. He’s not the only player at fault, yes. A .783 save percentage is nearly impossible to overcome. This isn’t quite so glaring an issue if he’s just a bit better, if the team can score to support, or if the goalie doesn’t face so many shots against. Speaking of…
Brandon Dubinsky, Cam Atkinson, and Boone Jenner were bad. The trio were handily outshot most of the night, and were on ice for most of the Washington goals (stats via Natural Stat Trick). This isn’t quite so glaring an issue if the goaltending is decent, or if the rest of the team was clicking to make up for defensive lapses. Speaking of…
The team’s power play was bad. The usually-compact attack of the first unit was disorganized, and crisp passes were missing. Shots weren’t generated, and the Capitals pushed play the other way. It doesn’t matter which way the credit goes (to Washington for playing well, or against Columbus for being so awful), the outcome was against the Jackets. This isn’t quite so glaring an issue if the goaltending is decent, or the shots against are limited.
The Good: This Game is Over
Much like win streaks, bad games also end. So rejoice!
The Bigger Picture Good: What the Streak Has Brought
Here are a few wild facts: points earned at the beginning of a season are worth the same as points earned at the end, and points earned early in a year don’t disappear over time.
With that in mind, even after tonight’s loss, the Columbus Blue Jackets are still in first place in the NHL with 58 points. That leaves the team 3 ahead of Pittsburgh, and the CBJ still have one game in hand over the Penguins.
Recall, the Eastern Conference playoff cutoff has been around 96 points (for Philly last year) and 98 points (Pittsburgh in 2014-15). The Blue Jackets need 38-40 more points to reach those totals. With 45 games remaining, Columbus need only finish 19-26-0, or 20-25-0 (if the cutoff is about this same this year).
In either scenario, the point is that the Blue Jackets have banked a ton of points early in the season. It makes the playoff goal that much easier, even as other clubs claw back from less-than-inspiring starts.
There is no guarantee of future wins, nor of a playoff berth. The Blue Jackets still must win 19-20 games to hit that mark, and that’s no small task in a tough Metro. However, picking up so many points so early in the year? It’s far, far better than the alternative.
Tweet of the Game and Outlook
A loss needn’t be all negative, after all.
The Blue Jackets are back in action this Saturday and Sunday, with crucial Metropolitan Division games against the Rangers and Flyers. These next few games will be interesting: can the Jackets shake off the loss, and get back to winning?