When you think of the Blue Jackets’ top rivals, the Penguins and Sabres naturally come to mind. Okay, the Sabres thing is the joke that never gets old, thanks to NBC’s old Wednesday Night Rivalry. You can make the case for some other rivals, particularly inside the Metropolitan Division. And the Capitals are arguably among their top rival.
Making the case versus Washington
Without looking directly at the head-to-head, and maybe it’s quarantine brain, but when I think about this matchup over the years, Columbus versus Washington feels like it’s been pretty competitive, nearly even.
Well, I decided to check and I was right. All-time, the Jackets are 17-18-1-7 against the Caps. The Caps hold the edge in all-time scoring 126-115, and have the edge on the road, while Columbus holds the slight edge at home.
I’ve seen a chunk of the series from Capital One Arena, formerly the Verizon Center, formally the MCI Center. The latter bringing to mind the old eagle and Capitol building sweaters, which brings to mind two losses: One in Columbus which saw the Jaromir Jagr-Caps winning in overtime, and then when some rookie made his NHL debut, scoring two goals in a Capitals’ win on the first opening night out of the 2004-05 lockout. Alex Ovechkin scored the first two of what is now 706-career goals.
Some might say you’re not a true rival until you’ve battled in the playoffs. Check that one off the list.
Obviously you can't forget the Jackets taking a 2-0 series lead over the Capitals in 2017-18. Capitals’ fans and media were already preparing for more failure, only for them to win four straight and eventually the Stanley Cup. The Jackets could have taken a commanding 3-0 lead but dropped Game 3 at home in double overtime. They lost Game 5, which I was at, in overtime to go down 3-2 in the series. The only clunkers were Games’ 4 and 6 in which the Jackets lost 4-1 and 6-3. Oh so close but yet so far away.
Matt Calvert was a standout performer for the Jackets in this series scoring three goals, one assist and scoring two goals in Game 5.
Earlier that season, on the night of the trade deadline that saw the Blue Jackets reunite with Mark Letestu, Columbus won their matchup with Washington rather easily, 5-1, but not without fireworks between Ovechkin and John Tortorella.
If you don’t remember, Matt Calvert was ejected at the end of the first period after butt-ending Ovechkin, OV skated to the Jackets’ bench to trade words with ‘Torts’, who was not having it. Tortorella apologized for the interaction later.
Washington of course ended Columbus’ historic 16-game winning streak with a 5-0 drubbing Jan. 5, 2017 in D.C. This was probably the best moment from that night.
Torts opens post-game presser with "Well shit."— Neil Greenberg (@ngreenberg) January 6, 2017
PR guy: "He means crap"
Torts: "No I meant shit"
Going back to the Steve Mason glory-days, I saw ‘Mase’ and Columbus shutout the Caps 3-0, sans-Rick Nash, in D.C. on the first of back-to-back games for Columbus and kick-starting three-consecutive wins. Mason white-washed the Caps with 45 saves for his sixth of 10 shutouts on the season. Fans were literally asking who Mason was or where he came from. We know about Mono-Mason, but apparently he was also dealing with upper-body muscle spasms that night. Going into that game, Washington had nine-straight home victories and were 18-1-1 on home ice that season. It was also Mason’s second shutout against the Caps at that point already.
There was also the time when the Blue Jackets celebrated an overtime win, ‘Kuzy’ style. Evgeny Kuznetsov does this bird celebration that is for his daughter and Columbus just wanted to get in on the fun.
Then there’s the Tom Wilson factor. Whether the playoffs that saw him take out Alexander Wennberg, or pretty much any other game he's on the ice for, the guy is a goon. He can score and I guess he might fall under one of those love him if you have him, hate him if you don’t. I don’t want him. He has had far too many on-ice incidents — incidents puts it mildly. His 75 PIM against Columbus are the second-most in his career versus one opponent.
Korpisalo was Korpisolid as he enjoyed lots of success against the Caps this season with a 2-0-1 mark, one shutout, 1.31 GAA, .962 SV%. Overall Korpi is 3-0-1, 1.26 GAA, .961 SV% against the Capitals in five career starts versus Washington.
Cam Atkinson & Nick Foligno
Atkinson has 12 goals, seven assists in 27 career games against the Capitals. Foligno comes in with six goals, seven assists in 25 games, and leads the Blue Jackets all-time in penalty minutes against the Caps with 36.
In 37 career games Ovechkin has 18 goals, 10 assists, and is a -15. I know plus/minus sucks but this looks good here!
I don’t know if this really counts but T.J. Oshie had the crazy shootout performance against Sergei Bobrovsky, scoring four goals on six attempts, as Team USA knocked off Team Russia at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. Sergei hasn’t really fare too well against the Capitals overall in his career going 9-12-5, .898, 3.02.
In 27 career games against Columbus, Holtby is 15-8-2, 2.55, .916 with two shutouts.
So what do you think? I get the notion that the Blue Jackets need to knock off the Capitals in a playoff series, or at least battle the Caps in a few more spring series before some might consider this a ‘true’ rivalry. But I think the stage has been set for some time as there is definitely a sizzle when these squads meet!
Below are some pictures I took at ice-level between the Jackets and Capitals when the teams were in D.C. a few seasons ago.
I took this video as Columbus took the ice.
Who do you consider the Jackets biggest rival?— The Cannon (@cbjcannon) June 30, 2020