The Blue Jackets have been on one impressive run over the last month and change, with points in 20 of their last 22 games, and it got me thinking about the other impressive streaks in Columbus’ franchise history. I wrote all about them below, and during my research, it was fun to revisit a collection of the better stretches, players, and performances the team have had and put together to date.
Wild Wild West
We’re starting off by going back to dark ages of the Blue Jackets. In the 2005-06 season, the club set a few then-franchise records, winning five, and later on, six consecutive games during the season. For those remembering all the way back, Columbus was in the Western Conference’s Central Division, Gerard Gallant was the head coach, and Adam Foote (Yea, yea. I know. Boo.) and Luke Richardson shared captaincy. They finished 35-43-4 and third place in the Central with 74 points.
This was a fun, albeit shortened season. What started out as a bit of a relative unknown in goal between Steve Mason and Sergei Bobrovsky splitting time in the net, turned into the start of Bobrovsky’s dominating tenure in Columbus en route to winning his first Vezina Trophy. Overall, while the team got off to a dreadful 5-12-4 start, they then ripped of a five-game winning streak. They matched that total late in the season, and won eight of nine to close out the year. The Blue Jackets’ strong finish wasn’t enough to crack the playoff picture, however, as they finished in a tie with the Wild for the final playoff spot. Darn those lack of ROW.
Beast of the East
In their first year into the Eastern Conference and newly formed Metropolitan Division, it was also the first year back to the playoffs for the Blue Jackets. One of the runs that sparked them was a then franchise-record eight-game winning streak, and nine wins in 10 games, a stretch that spanned Jan. 2 through Jan. 23. They were 12-3-0 from Dec. 21 through Jan. 23, which tied them for the second-best mark at that point that season. Stepping back from the glass a little more, the Jackets were the sixth best team in the league from Dec. 12 through the end of the season (33-18-4, 70 points).
Following the conclusion of the 2013-14 season, in which Columbus returned to the playoffs for the first time since 2009, and took the Penguins to six exciting games, the buzz and excitement was cranked all the way up. But injuries took their toll in 2014-15 — NHL high 502 man games lost to injury — ultimately crippling the team, but not before a bizarrely exciting finish to the season.
Literally following a seven-game losing streak, Columbus had begun getting healthier and playing a looser style of hockey. They subsequently won nine-straight — a new franchise-best — and 12 of 13 from Mar. 6 through the end of the season. The Blue Jackets went 16-2-1, still missing the playoffs by nine points, but making up some serious ground. When the run started on Mar. 6, they were 27-33-4, four spots from the Eastern Conference basement. They finished 11th, but saw a spike in points from 58 to 89 in a month’s time.
I don’t know what would have happened if the team didn’t finish on the kind of high they did, which ultimately seeped through into the offseason and into the next season in terms of excitement. Management thoroughly believed the team could be a contender when healthy, and that seemed evident the way 2014-15 ended.
But again, the high was thwarted on opening night 2015.
A devastating opening-night loss to the Rangers inside the closing minutes, and then a shellacking the very next night at Madison Square Garden sunk the team down a dark spiral. Ultimately, the dismal 0-8 start to a season that was supposed to be all about the playoffs cost Todd Richards his job, and John Tortorella was brought in. But then the Ryan Johansen for Seth Jones trade happened and a bunch of other stuff, soo...
16-game winning streak, 2016-17
It’s hard to forget about the best winning streak in franchise history, when the team won 16-straight games, a number that fell just one short of the all-time NHL record for consecutive victories.
In what starts a string of three-straight playoff appearances, the 2016-17 season marked new highs for the franchise, a year unlike any other in the teams’ history. The Blue Jackets set franchise records for the longest winning streak (16), wins in a season 50, points in a season (108), and finished third in the Metropolitan Division, their highest divisional finish.
It was surreal seeing the amount of wins pile up and the gaudy record balloon to a mark of 27-5-4 before the streak ended Jan. 5, 2017. The New Year’s Eve showdown between the Blue Jackets and Wild, who were on a 13-game winning streak themselves, made it the first professional sports matchup of its kind, in which two teams, each with at least 12-straight wins, squared off.
It was Mar. 2018 when the Blue Jackets finally got hot and went on a run that propelled them towards the playoffs. That run included a 10-game winning streak, 11 wins in 12 games, and featured highs like a thrilling come-from-behind, 7-3 win at the Oilers. This, after going down 3-0 early in the first period and tying the score after one. This season highlighted the return of Mark Letestu near the trade deadline and the acquisition of Ian Cole and Thomas Vanek. The month of March for Columbus that year featured four hat tricks (Cam Atkinson, Artemi Panarin, Thomas Vanek, and Pierre-Luc Dubois) and they had six total on the season, the latter two also by Atkinson. The season culminated with a playoff series against the Capitals, including the teams’ first series lead and 2-0 series lead. I was at Game 5 in D.C. and saw the team lose a heartbreaker, 4-3, in overtime.
As great as the 16-game winning streak was in 2016-17, I wasn’t all that excited heading into the season because my expectations were low. Plus I was coming off the high of the 2016 World Series (Sorry PD). But anyway, as great and as captivating as that run was, with the team hitting new highs along the way, I think this year’s group, and their current run of 20 games with a point in the last 22 games — currently on a season-high six-game winning streak — is my favorite.
This year’s Blue Jackets are off to their second-best start through 50 games in franchise history. Going into the season, we knew the kids could play a prominent role. We didn’t think the club was perpetually better for all the man-games lost — offseason departures and the daily injury toll. While it’s never ideal to lose your stars, it’s nice to know you have organizational depth capable of filling in, and even carrying the team forward, or in this case, elevating the play of the team.
It’s hard to necessarily quantify exactly why it’s all gone right lately. In breaking it down, Joonas Korpisalo formed into an All-Star, then he got hurt, thrusting Elvis Merzlikins into the starting spotlight. He earned his first-career victory shortly thereafter and the wins kept coming. So that’s obviously going to work when the young goalie(s) get more and more confidence the more they play.
Nathan Gerbe, an NHL veteran and All-Star captain for the Monsters has been a revelation. Andrew Peeke, Eric Robinson, and Kevin Stenlund were among those to show they’re capable of sticking to an NHL roster as formidable players. Emil Bemstrom is another young guy (only 20!) and has been churning out positive results. Of his five goals, three come on the power play and we’ll take that!
Since Dec. 9, the Blue Jackets have been minus the services of players like Josh Anderson, Cam Atkinson, Bemstrom, Oliver Bjorkstrand, Korpisalo, Dean Kukan, Ryan Murray, Peeke, Alexandre Texier, and Zach Werenski, at some point or another. That’s not even everyone.
When one returned, someone else left, it felt like almost every night.
Over that timeframe, the Blue Jackets have gone 16-2-4, with both regulation losses coming against the Sharks. The 16 wins and 36 points are the best mark in that span, and the Blue Jackets have entered the playoff picture, currently holding down the first wild card. The current run is simply astonishing when you consider the injuries and how well Merzlikins has played.
I was really mad at the clock malfunction that cost the Blue Jackets against the Blackhawks in late December but without that, who knows? If Korpisalo doesn’t get hurt, forcing Elvis to the net, maybe he never gets the regular playing time. Perhaps the team has fed off that moment of adversity, and are subsequently fueled by what Merzlikins and co. bring.
The Latvian wonder has gone 9-2-1 since taking over for Korpisalo Dec. 29 — it's tough being on the hard-luck end of one Patrick Kane shootout shot to take the loss as he did against Chicago, but it’s also quite impressive when you consider the Sharks are the only team to best him otherwise — and boasts a .951 SV% and 1.65 GAA in that stretch.
He had three shutouts in the span of a week against the Bruins, Golden Knights, and Devils. His nine wins are no. 1 in that span. The best news is when Korpisalo comes back, it appears the Blue Jackets have two very capable goalies to hold down the crease, and the defensive play has only done its part to help support their netminders. This doesn’t even include Matiss Kivlenieks winning his NHL debut 2-1 Sunday against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden.
Going into the season, the national narrative was all about who the Blue Jackets lost in free agency and how they weren’t likely to have playoff aspirations. Instead, the story has transformed to all of the kids from the Cleveland Monsters coming up and carrying the load of the team, Korpisalo becoming an All-Star, and Merzlikins turning into what we all hoped.
Organizational depth for this team is clearly very high and the absence of draft picks from last year’s draft, and this upcoming draft, while they would be nice, are clearly not as desperately needed when you consider all the young talent the team has right now, and will have going forward.
Which Blue Jackets "run" was your favorite?
This poll is closed
2016-17, ‘The Streak’