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Year in review: Blue Jackets made history in 2019

Columbus' playoff sweep of Tampa Bay highlighted the past year

by Jeff Svoboda @JacketsInsider /

Can you believe we're just two days from 2020? 

It sure does feel like time flies, but for the Blue Jackets, 2019 was a memorable year. 

There were big trades, a playoff run unlike any the franchise had ever seen, a wild start of free agency and then finally a strong finish to the year that has Columbus back in the playoff race. 

Before 2019 is fully in the rearview mirror, though, here's a look at the year that was for the Blue Jackets. 

January: The Blue Jackets moved into first place in the Metropolitan Division on Jan. 15 with a win against the New Jersey Devils, the team's fourth straight victory. That was the team's last victory of the month, though, as Columbus lost of a pair of games heading into the All-Star break then dropped their first three on the other side of the break. The team also had a clear-the-air meeting during January when, after being pulled from a 4-0 loss at Tampa Bay on Jan. 8, goalie Sergei Bobrovsky shed his gear while the game was still going on, resulting in a one-game benching. In his stead, Joonas Korpisalo stepped in and turned in a series of excellent starts. While at the All-Star Game, Seth Jones and Cam Atkinson turned in solid performances as the Metropolitan Division earned the crown. There was also a mini controversy involving the Washington Capitals, who were mad the Blue Jackets co-opted Evgeny Kuznetsov's bird celebration following their overtime goal in a Jan. 12 victory in DC.  

February: The Blue Jackets came together on a trip out West, downing Colorado, Arizona and Vegas in a row to snap the five-game skid. The latter victory was a memorable one, with Cam Atkinson scoring twice in the final 10 minutes to turn a 3-2 deficit into a 4-3 Blue Jackets victory. There was speculation all month about what the team would do at the trade deadline, with Bobrovksy and Artemi Panarin set to see their contracts expire at the end of the season, and general manager Jarmo Kekalainen gave an emphatic answer Feb. 22 when he acquired center Matt Duchene from Ottawa. A day later, Ryan Dzingel also was added from the Senators, giving the Blue Jackets more firepower up front for the run to the postseason.  

March: All the excitement of the trade deadline faded quickly because of one main reason: The Blue Jackets couldn't score a goal. Columbus went 5-7-1 in the first 13 games with both Dzingel and Duchene on the roster, largely because the team couldn't put the puck in the net. It was a team-wide cold streak that included three shutouts in six games at the start of the month and just four goals scored in three straight losses from March 16-21 at Boston, Calgary and Edmonton. But just when it looked like the playoffs could be out of reach, the team held an honest meeting before a March 24 game at Vancouver, then came out and downed the Canucks by a 5-0 score. That led to a hot streak, as the Blue Jackets won five in a row before the end of the month, adding victories against the Islanders, Canadiens, Predators and Sabres. In the five-game win streak, the Blue Jackets won by a combined score of 24-4. 

April: The win streak ended with a loss to Boston to start the month, but Columbus qualified for the playoffs in the next game by taking a 3-2 shootout win vs. the New York Rangers in Madison Square Garden. The victory on April 5 clinched a third straight postseason berth, and the Blue Jackets made the most of this one. Columbus was massive a underdog against a Tampa Bay team that tied an NHL record with 62 wins in the regular season, but the Blue Jackets rallied from a 3-0 hole in Game 1 to take the opening contest by a 4-3 score. That set the tone and Columbus didn't look back, earning a 5-1 win in Game 2 then returning home for a 3-1 victory in Game 3 and a 7-3 triumph in the clincher. It was one of the most stunning upsets in NHL postseason history, with Nationwide Arena rocking for the finale. The Jackets weren't done, though, for the month, waiting 10 days to take on Boston before winning Game 2 in double overtime and then taking Game 3 back in a raucous Nationwide Arena to take a 2-1 series lead. 

Video: Blue Jackets sweep Lightning for first series win

May: To this day, John Tortorella says the Blue Jackets were the better team against Boston in the series, but unfortunately the results didn't bear it out. The Bruins won by a 4-1 score in a physical Game 4, and then the series changed in Game 5. Columbus rallied from a 3-1 hole in the third period to tie the game, but the Bruins tallied 1:28 to go and Duchene's late chance hit the post to give Boston a 3-2 series lead. The Bruins returned to Columbus to finish it, earning a 3-0 win in Game 6 to clinch the series victory. A series that started with such promise was over, and with it ended a postseason that ignited Blue Jackets fever in Columbus.  

June: The month of the NHL draft is exciting for fans of the future across hockey, but there wasn't much for Blue Jackets fans to watch when the picks were made in Vancouver. A series of trades, including the deals for Duchene and Dzingel, left Columbus with just three draft picks when the picks were made June 21-22. It appears the Blue Jackets used them wisely, though, taking Swedish defenseman Eric Hjorth and Russian forward Dmitri Voronkov in the fourth round and Canadian forward Tyler Angle in the seventh round. Both Hjorth and Angle are off to excellent starts in the OHL, while Voronkov is earning regular minutes in the KHL and is currently playing at the World Juniors.  

July: Free agency dawned July 1 and, as many suspected, both Panarin and Bobrovsky eschewed the chance to return to Columbus. Duchene, Dzingel and goalie Keith Kinkaid -- all acquired at the deadline -- also left, but the Blue Jackets did make a shrewd signing with the addition of former Detroit Red Wing and San Jose Sharks forward Gus Nyquist, who has been among the team's leading scorers all season. The addition of Nyquist added another dependable offensive threat for the Blue Jackets.  

August: If there's such a thing as a quiet month in the NHL, it's August, as players ramp up their preseason training but scouts, coaches and general managers have something close to a period of time in which they can catch a breather. The Blue Jackets' lone major roster move in the month was the signing of Marko Dano, while Nick Foligno hosted his annual NHL vs. Docs charity game in Sudbury, Ontario, welcoming many of his teammates to his hometown to raise lots of money for a good cause.   

September: Finally, hockey returned as the Blue Jackets opened camp and began exhibition games. Training camp was a spirited affair, with only a handful of spots open despite the offseason turnover, and much of the focus was on a young goaltending tandem and a handful of new player like Nyquist and Swedish import Emil Bemstrom. First, though, came the annual Traverse City prospects tournament, with the Blue Jackets falling just shy of defending their title but seeing solid performances from such youngsters as Alexandre Texier and Andrew Peeke.  

October: Finally, the season got under way, though Columbus was on the short end of the stick in the first two games with losses at home vs. Toronto then on the road at rival Pittsburgh. But the Blue Jackets rebounded quickly, moving to 5-3-2 on Oct. 24 with an overtime win at home vs. Carolina. The month ended on a down note, though, with setbacks vs. Philadelphia and Edmonton. Still, the Blue Jackets turned some heads around the NHL, showing they had the players on hand to overcome their offseason losses.  

November: Columbus spent most of the month spinning its wheels, unable to really put any streaks together while going 6-6-2. Goal scoring was the biggest culprit, as Columbus had 35 goals in 14 games, an average of 2.50 per contest. But as the month went on, there was one major encouraging sign -- the play of goaltender Korpisalo, who started to come into his own during the month. Korpisalo played 10 games in the month and had a 2.31 goals-against average and .919 save percentage, winning six of his last eight starts.   

December: The Blue Jackets lost their first three games of the month and looked to be in trouble, with an 11-14-4 record that meant the team had won just 11 of its first 29 games. But the tide started to turn Dec. 9 when the team hit the road to face Washington, which led the NHL in points. That didn't faze the Blue Jackets, though, as Columbus earned a 5-2 victory that kicked off what has become a 10-game point streak. While injuries have marred the month - more than $25 million in salary is on the shelf with 12 different players missing at least a game because of injuries or illness - the Blue Jackets go into 2020 with a chance to extend the postseason streak.  

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