It had to end sometime.
After pulling off 16 consecutive wins, the Columbus Blue Jackets finally met their match Thursday night. The Washington Capitals defeated the Blue Jackets 5-0. The loss is just their sixth regulation loss of the season.
But at the end of the day in the grand scheme of things, the game and the streak weren’t the most important things going on. Even before this game began, the mission was already accomplished.
The Columbus Blue Jackets were the feature attraction in the sports world, not just the hockey world. They mattered.
The Blue Jackets Mattered
For a franchise who is still looking for their first ever playoff series win and first ever regulation playoff game win, they took dramatic steps in the right direction to become a team that consistently matters league-wide. What did it take to gain the attention? In a word, winning.
It’s amazing really how simple but powerful that statement is. If you win, you matter. If you win a lot, you gain attention. If you win at a historic rate, then everyone wants to know what you’re doing. Let me share a few examples with you about how much the team mattered during this streak.
Columbus extends its win streak to 16 games, defeating Edmonton, 3-1.
Blue Jackets: 1 game away from tying Penguins' 1993 record (17 gms). pic.twitter.com/VcQA5aie9A
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) January 4, 2017
I don’t know if you watched ESPN after the Blue Jackets defeated Edmonton Tuesday. If you did, you saw something on their bottom-line that really stood out. One of the categories was “Blue Jackets”. Ponder that for a moment.
On a network that doesn’t show any live hockey games, the Blue Jackets got their own space dedicated to the winning streak. Several Blue Jacket players were interviewed on ESPN after games during the streak. The nation got to see what the Blue Jackets were doing.
As soon as Caps beat the Maple Leafs, they wanted to know if the Blue Jackets won their game to extend the streak. https://t.co/e1fAI2mutR
— Isabelle Khurshudyan (@ikhurshudyan) January 5, 2017
Other teams paid attention as well. After the Capitals defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday, they went to the locker room and immediately checked the Blue Jackets score. The Capitals knew the Blue Jackets were next and were hoping for an opportunity to break the streak. Again, the Blue Jackets mattered.
Fans of Other Teams
Even in talking with fans of other teams, there was nothing but respect for the winning streak. While some fans were still in shock, others expressed their desire to watch Blue Jackets games even though they hadn’t done so before. That is a true sign of respect in the sports world. The Blue Jackets not only captured hockey fans, they got others with no interest in hockey involved.
Again, winning means everything.
In York, PA, a town comprised of Penguins, Flyers and Capitals fans, the ones I talked to were happy to see the Blue Jackets’ success. These fans took particular interest because all these teams are all in the Metropolitan Division. There was nothing but respect for the Blue Jackets in a town you wouldn’t expect to see this in.
— Columbus Blue Jackets (@BlueJacketsNHL) January 4, 2017
In a league starving to find good storylines, the Blue Jackets gave us one for the history books. They now sit alone in second place all-time for most consecutive wins. Nobody can ever take that away from them. Future winning streaks will go up against the ’92-93 Penguins and ’16-17 Blue Jackets. What the Blue Jackets did here will always matter in the hockey world whether it’s 10, 20 or 50 years from now.
Bigger Goals in Mind
The task is far from over for the Blue Jackets. They have a big game Saturday night at home against the New York Rangers. Columbus will get an opportunity to respond after suffering their first regulation loss since November 23rd. This will be fascinating to watch.
Remember, these Blue Jackets are still the youngest team in the league. How will they respond to their most lopsided defeat of the season? Can they immediately move on or will it carry over? Just because the streak is over doesn’t mean they don’t matter anymore. They still lead the standings with games in hand. With everyone still chasing them, they will still matter. The Jackets are the current standard in the league.
That’s the main takeaway from this. Although losing stinks, it happens to everyone at some point. Although the Capitals played well and defended home ice for one night, the bigger and more important thing is that the Columbus Blue Jackets have the attention of the league. They matter because they started winning, and kept winning.
Coach John Tortorella expressed this to his team after Thursday’s game. He told them how proud he was of them and what they accomplished. Tortorella normally doesn’t go into the room after a game like this. This one was different. As he told the team, “It was one hell of a run.”
But now it’s over. The streak is in the past. The Blue Jackets can now focus on their next game. They need to. They have plenty of work to do to accomplish their goal. That is, sustained success in the playoffs and winning a Stanley Cup.
No matter how it plays out, the Blue Jackets matter now in a way they haven’t mattered before. If you’re a Blue Jackets fan, that’s worth celebrating.