With a 5-1 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning back on November 29th, the Columbus Blue Jackets would kick off a streak of 16 straight victories that came within one win of tying the NHL record. This streak brought national attention to a team often overlooked by even its own league. It also forced those around the league to admit that despite last year’s stumble the Blue Jackets are back on track.
At this point last year the Blue Jackets were last in the Eastern Conference with 33 points. As of January 6th, they have almost doubled that, with 58 points and a 27-6-4 record. The Blue Jackets are on the rise again, and they have the streak to prove it.
Looking back over how the Blue Jackets played during their streak makes it even more impressive. The team scored four or more goals in 10 of the 16 games, and let up less than three goals in 13 of them. Their most standout game was on December 22nd when they blew out division rival Pittsburgh Penguins 7-1.
The team has been led through the streak by the stellar play of both goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky and forward Cam Atkinson. Bobrovsky continued his already stellar year, winning 14 of the team’s games and improving his save percentage to .930. Atkinson leads the team in points during the streak with 18 and now leads the entire team with 38 points in 37 games.
It is clear that the confidence is back in this team. All around, the players are performing better than last year. Bobrovsky has regained his form and looks more like the Vezina winning goalie he was in the 2012/13 season. Captain Nick Foligno is living up to the big contract he was given before last year, already only four points behind his entire point total from last season. Newcomer Sam Gagner is taking advantage of the chance given to him by the team and is having what looks to be one of the best seasons of his career.
After the dud of a season Columbus had last year, there were many who were questioning the team at the beginning of the season. But the team has proved critics wrong in one swoop with this streak and are primed to make their third ever playoff appearance. This all while being in the toughest division in the NHL.
Even after the second-longest winning streak in NHL history, the Blue Jackets are only up one point on the New York Rangers and three points on both the Penguins and the Washington Capitals. There is no rest in the Metropolitan Division, and the Blue Jackets have to build further off of this momentum if they want to keep their spot atop it.
For how much they were doubted before the season began, this team needed a streak like this one to prove to themselves, the media, and their fans that their playoff appearance two years ago was not a fluke. The Columbus Blue Jackets know that they are a hockey team good enough to go on a playoff run, and with this streak they have shown that to the rest of the league as well.