Columbus Blue Jackets (Kirk Irwin / Getty Images)
It's been a tough season for the Columbus Blue Jackets, but they left their fans with plenty to look forward to next year after winning their final home game on Friday.
Columbus fans won’t get to see a home playoff game this month, but they did get to witness a franchise record-tying point streak in the Blue Jackets’ last home game of the season.
The Jackets dropped the Buffalo Sabres 4-2 in Columbus Friday to extend their current streak to 12 games (11-0-1), while improving their awful home record to 19-20-2 to end the year.
The Blue Jackets hit the ice ready to play, as Nick Foligno potted the first goal of the night just 14 seconds into the game.
It was a feel-good end at home to an otherwise disappointing season for the Blue Jackets, who never managed to recover from a crippling string of injuries early in the campaign. The Jackets entered the season expecting to build on last year’s playoff appearance, but wound up surrendering that goal less than halfway through the campaign.
Sergei Bobrovsky missed significant time in the first half of the year with injuries, and his squad sputtered mightily without him. Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov also missed large chunks of the season, while blueline prospect Ryan Murray missed a total of 69 games to injuries.
But the most disheartening injury news had to be the word on Nathan Horton, the Jackets’ prized free agent signing from two summers ago who learned he would likely never play hockey again due to a horrible back injury.
Columbus tried to make the best of a bad situation by swapping Horton’s useless contract for a warm body in David Clarkson. Then, Clarkson went down with an injury in just his third game.
If these players ever wanted an excuse to give up, they had plenty to choose from.
But they didn’t. Instead, they went on a late-season tear with nothing but pride on the line, racking up a 14-1-1 record since March 8. The playoffs were never really possible for this squad, yet they never surrendered.
The season also had its share of bright spots.
Ryan Johansen returned from a contentious contract negotiation and picked up right where he left off, scoring 26 goals and a career-best 71 points. He's a bona fide No. 1 center, and he showed that this year.
Nick Foligno may have taken the biggest step for the Jackets, scoring more than 30 goals and 70 points for the first time in his career. Foligno also embraced the role of hometown captain at the All-Star game, representing his team and his city with a mix of class and charm.
And while Bobrovsky struggled through injuries, he also renewed his commitment to Columbus by inking a big-money contract extension that will keep him in the city for four more years.
This year was supposed to be a big one for Columbus, with the NHL All-Star game in their city and a playoff-worthy roster ready to make waves in the East.
It didn’t quite work out that way, but the Blue Jackets still have plenty of reasons to be excited about their roster, which is almost entirely signed through next year.
If this team can stay healthy, Columbus fans will be in for some incredible hockey in 2015-16.