The Columbus Blue Jackets were unable to extend their winning streak tonight against the Buffalo Sabres, ultimately losing 5-2 in a game that they could have used in order to help stabilize their position in the Metro Division and the Eastern Conference. Their eight-game winning streak has basically brought them from a place of being irrelevant in the playoff picture to being right in the thick of things.
The question is, which way will Columbus go after this setback? Will they go right back to the hockey team that they were earlier in the season and fade in the standings? Or will they pick up where they left off and easily qualify for the playoffs?
There is evidence to suggest that the winning streak may be a fluke. First of all, they seemed to benefit from a schedule that was not that challenging. Second of all, they were getting every bounce and seemed to face bad play in goal almost every night.
Also, Sergei Bobrovsky has not been quite as good lately. He was especially bad tonight, and it definitely cost his team a lot tonight. If he cannot manage to play better, then I would have to say that the Jackets are in a lot of trouble. Curtis McElhinney simply does not have the track record that it would take to be effective in the long run.
Since Columbus is a young team, there is reason to be very optimistic about their progress. It always pays to have unexpected secondary scoring for anybody who wants to compete in the NHL.
On the flip side, this can also be a cause for concern. As teams around the league begin to view the Jackets differently, it becomes harder for them to sneak up on their opponents.
Time will tell whether Columbus will be able to overcome the physical play of their opponents and have success against teams that are bigger and more skilled than they are.