Last night the Capitals beat the Columbus Blue Jackets, 5-0, in Washington, D.C. Last year, that sad result wouldn’t have been a surprise — after all, the CBJ lost 40 games last season and finished at the bottom of the NHL’s Metropolitan Division.
Yesterday’s game was different, though, because it brought to an end an amazing 16-game winning streak for the Columbus hockey club. It was the first time the Blue Jackets had lost a game since before Thanksgiving. During the streak the CBJ rose from near the bottom of their division to first place — which is another landmark for the franchise. As of today, the CBJ have 58 points after only 37 games; last year the team had a measly 76 points for the entire 82-game season.
For Columbus generally, and Blue Jackets fans specifically, the 16-game streak, and the undefeated December, was pretty cool. It is the second longest winning streak in NHL history, falling one game short of the all-time record, and it saw the Blue Jackets win against good teams and bad, win on the road and at home, and even beat a team that was on its own 12-game winning streak. Sellout crowds started to pack Nationwide Arena, and the people of Columbus started talking about the Blue Jackets around town — a lot. For a franchise that has consistently known failure and disappointment, and that has never won a playoff series, it was heady times. And the Columbus community appreciated it, because it allowed people to think about something other than Ohio State football for a while.
So now the streak is over, and it will be up to the Blue Jackets to bounce back, reveal their inner grit and determination, and show that they belong among the best teams in the NHL by playing consistently good hockey for the rest of the season and well into the playoffs. Their coach, tough-talking John Tortorella, has challenged them to do exactly that in the wake of the loss to Washington. After all, that’s what good teams do.
The Columbus Blue Jackets — a good team. Who’da thunk it? It’s a great thing.