Tim Erixon, James Wisniewski and Boone Jenner (Getty Images)
The Columbus Blue Jackets avoided setting a dubious new franchise record on Friday, snapping their nine-game losing streak with a 4-3 win over Philadelphia on the strength of Ryan Johansen's four assists. But can the Blue Jackets recover from this early-season slump to make the playoffs again?
The Columbus Blue Jackets won their first game in three weeks on Friday night, snapping their franchise record-tying nine-game losing streak with a 4-3 win over the Philadelphia Flyers in Scott Hartnell's return to the City of Brotherly Love. But the Blue Jackets now find themselves at the bottom of a very deep hole, sitting second-last in the Eastern Conference after 16 games.
Next weekend marks American Thanksgiving, a quarter pole of sorts when teams usually have a sense of whether they're a playoff team or not. Very few teams make the playoffs if they're not within four points of a spot at Thanksgiving, and Columbus is a far cry from that right now.
Still, Friday's win comes as a relief for the injury-ravaged CBJs, who are missing key players like Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, Nathan Horton and Sergei Bobrovsky from their roster. 'Goalie Bob' returned Friday to back up on the bench, but Dubinsky is recovering from abdominal surgery, Anisimov is still out with a concussion and Horton is more worried about his quality of life than an NHL return at this point.
Columbus did get Jack Johnson back from suspension on Friday, and some of the other big names on the roster certainly showed up in Philadelphia to secure the win. Ryan Johansen had four assists, Nick Foligno had two goals and an assist and James Wisniewski potted a pair of powerplay goals to lead Columbus to victory.
The Blue Jackets' last win was on Oct. 23, a 5-4 victory over the Sharks in San Jose. Between that win and the one Friday, the Jackets went an abysmal 0-8-1 and gave up 38 goals, while scoring only 18 of their own. They averaged only two goals per game over that stretch, and only rose above the two-goal threshold once in a 7-4 loss to Tampa Bay last Saturday.
Friday was also a redemption game for backup goaltender Curtis McElhinney, who was in net for six of the nine losses after Bobrovsky went down in late October. McElhinney struggled mightily through the losing streak, surrendering 21 goals and posting a .877 save percentage during the losing streak.
McElhinney turned aside 24 shots and posted a .889 save percentage on Friday to get his first win of the season. His numbers weren't great, but with a 10-game losing streak on the line, the win is really what matters.
The Jackets' Scott Hartnell was held off the scoresheet, despite getting a mid-game tribute from the Flyers on the Jumbo-tron in Philadelphia. Hartnell was traded to the Blue Jackets in the off-season for center R.J. Umberger.
Columbus is nowhere near a playoff spot at this point, and the bright optimism of their post-season appearance last spring has all but evaporated. The city has this year's All-Star Game to look forward to, but its hometown team sits 29th overall in the NHL right now, and a second straight playoff appearance already looks out of reach.