Friday, January 6, 2017

Processing the End of The Streak

The Columbus Blue Jackets win streak came to an end last night.  Now that the frivolities are over, we can get back to focusing on the real prize, the playoffs and The Grail waiting at the end of them.  As the players turn their attention from the heights to a more mundane existence, significant challenges await.  A home back to back with powerful Metropolitan Division foes; and standings points that are available for the taking for those with a heart stout enough for the task.

The Jackets have shown that they have stout hearts, but they are unaccustomed to setbacks of late, and it is not a given that they will respond right away.  I however, know exactly how I will respond when I see the team take the ice for tomorrow's game.  I will be standing, clapping, and yelling my loudest to salute their accomplishment.  I look forward to that moment.  For their accomplishment is both rare and significant.

The second longest winning streak in NHL history, 16 consecutive wins.  Last night's game is an excellent example of how hard it is to maintain a streak in the NHL, because on any given night even the worst team can beat you, or have a goalie stand on his head, and the Capitals are far from the worst team in the league.  By the end of the streak, the Jackets were taking everyone's best shot, and doing remarkably well at dealing with that pressure.  The Minnesota game, with two teams that had huge streaks on the line was a great game.  The Edmonton win that gave them second place all to themselves was a solid, well played game.

They finally ran into a Capitals team that is a.) really good, and b.) had to be ecstatic to have something significant to play for in early January.  When I heard Holtby had been pulled in the previous game, I knew the Jackets would have a hard time scoring.  And it was the Capitals night.  Good for them.  That allowed the Caps to move into the win column in the four game series that the two teams play this year, the Jackets having won the previous two meetings.  The Capitals will get a chance to visit Nationwide Arena in early April and see if they can pull the score even, with playoff positioning likely on the line.

And there is a reasonably high probability that, before this is all over, the Jackets and the Capitals will get to play an additional 7 game series to settle the score once and for all in 2016-17.  So the Caps had their night last night.  There are more games out there to be played and they will have to come through Nationwide Arena to get anywhere.  I'm pretty sure I'm going to be looking forward to that game a lot.

But for now, the Rangers and the Flyers loom.  The Jackets need to put the streak behind them, and play their best hockey this weekend.  Curtis McElhinney needs to win a game this weekend and Bob needs to rebound.  The Jackets sit first in the NHL, atop the Metropolitan Division in January.  That's like a 2 goal lead.  It's nice to have, but it doesn't mean that's how it is going to turn out in the end.  You have to keep the pedal to the metal.


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