The Blue Jackets closed out their home schedule the same way they started it.
And while there was a lot of tough sledding in between, the Blue Jackets' 4-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Friday night was an appropriate culmination for a team that spoke all season about playing better at home and responded by winning its final six games at Nationwide Arena. The Jackets also matched a franchise record by earning a point for the 12th straight game, a feat the last accomplished during the lockout-shortened 2013 season. That team went on an 8-0-4 run, making this 11-0-1 stretch the best 12-game run in franchise history.
Friday night was a night of appreciation for the 5th Line, a night for the organization to thank their fans for what has overall been a season of disappointing results. At the same time fans also got a chance to show the players some love, and Nick Foligno was a prime target. Foligno was honored before the game as the 2014-15 Community MVP, an award that recognizes a player for his outstanding charitable work in the community.
“It’s special, it’s a really nice honor. You try to get involved in your community as much as you can, and I’ve made no mistake about saying how much I love this city and I try to be a part of it,” said Foligno. “You don’t really want to get recognized for it, you want to get out and do it for your own personal reasons. But there’s so many great people here and it’s nice to be a part of.”
The fans didn’t even get a chance to settle into their seats before Foligno gave them a reason to stand again, opening the scoring just 14 seconds into the game. It was Foligno’s 31st goal of the season in what’s been a career year. At the end of the night, it was Foligno closing out the show, taking the microphone and promising fans much better results next spring.
BEST OF A BAD SITUATION
The Jackets' record isn’t what they want it to be, but with 11 wins in their last 12 games they are now six games over .500 and within a game of the .500 mark at home. While the season was devastated by injuries, there were still players that had career years and stoke the imagination of what this team can accomplish when fully healthy.
Of course Foligno has had his best season, as has fellow All-Star Ryan Johansen with a career high 70 points. Matt Calvert has had significant injury trouble this season in and out of the lineup and usually playing a fourth line role when he has rejoined. With a goal against the Sabres on Friday, Calvert pushed his season total to 13 in 55 games, four more than he scored in 56 games last season. David Savard’s two assists gave him 35 points, 20 more than last season. Sergei Bobrovsky was sidelined by a groin injury and a broken finger, but still battled his way to 30 wins with the victory over Buffalo.
The final results aren’t satisfying for Jackets’ fans, but the individual play of some of this roster’s key members is right on track.
With the victory, Todd Richards became the winningest head coach in Blue Jackets history, moving past Ken Hitchcock with his 126th win. Richards shrugged it off after the game, not concerned with the personal milestone. Players felt differently, understanding the role Richards has played within the organization and in steering this group through a frustrating campaign after last year’s success.
“Todd and I have had a relationship before,” said Mark Letestu, who also played for Richards in the minors in Wilkes-Barre. “To see him come here and have the success he’s had, his attitude has been the same all the way through. He never gets too high, he never gets too low. Even in this points streak, I don’t think he’s let up on us.
“He’s always wanting more and always wanting better, and I think the personality that he has is transferring to the team.”