The Columbus Blue Jackets capped off 2016 in style.
In a historic New Year’s Eve match-up against the Minnesota Wild, the Blue Jackets extended their winning streak to 15 games.
I know, right?
With only two playoff appearances in franchise history, the Blue Jackets finished 27th overall in the standings to close out the 2015-16 season. John Tortorella, their coach, was at one point early this season the most likely of all NHL coaches to be fired first.
There didn’t seem to be much optimism about the Blue Jackets — a team with plenty of youth on its roster.
But this has turned into a remarkable run, and an unexpected one, too. The power play ranks as the best in the league at 28 per cent. Sergei Bobrovsky, the winning goalie versus the Wild, has been heavily relied on and he’s responded by posting a .934 save percentage coming into Saturday’s contest. Their young defenseman have been very good. Rookie Zach Werenski has continued to impress and Seth Jones is up to seven goals on the season.
On Saturday, they faced a Wild team that had won 12 in a row. The Blue Jackets and Wild. The two hottest teams in the league at the end of 2016.
This time, the Blue Jackets took the win by a final of 4-2 in a feisty one.
Among the great stories in Columbus has been the play of Cam Atkinson. He continued that against the Wild, scoring twice, giving him 17 goals on the season. The Blue Jackets, with goals from Jack Johnson and Atkinson, scored 15 seconds apart in the middle period, opening up a three-goal lead.
The Wild tried to fight back. Jason Zucker‘s breakaway goal 24 seconds into the third period appeared to give them life. But they couldn’t beat Bobrovsky after that, and the Blue Jackets held on.
They end 2016 leading the defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins for top spot in the Metropolitan Division.
What does 2017 have in store for the Blue Jackets? They are serving notice it could be a big year for them.