Lessons from the last week in the NHL:
The Blue Jackets keep on winning. A clash of unlikely titans developed Saturday when the Columbus Blue Jackets took a 14-game winning streak to Minnesota to face the Wild, who had won 12 games in a row. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it was the first time in any major North American sports league that both teams in a game had winning streaks of 12 or more. Columbus won, 4-2, to match the second-longest winning streak in NHL history. The 1981-82 New York Islanders and 2012-13 Pittsburgh Penguins won 15 games in a row; the record is 17, set by the 1992-93 Penguins. The league-leading Blue Jackets (26-5-4) didn’t win their 26th game last season until their 63rd game and won 34 games the entire season. They next face the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday at Nationwide Arena.
Mother Nature doesn’t always cooperate. The NHL has had good luck with weather at its outdoor games, but the Centennial Classic on Sunday at Toronto had a sun delay and the Winter Classic was staged amid damp and drizzle Monday at St. Louis.
Puck drop between the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs on Sunday was pushed back about 30 minutes because of the sun’s glare on the ice. The surface looked mushy late in the game, but that’s normal. Things were tame until the third period, when the Red Wings erased a 4-1 Toronto lead before the Maple Leafs prevailed in overtime on a goal by rookie Auston Matthews. The Detroit-Toronto alumni game Saturday was equally entertaining. Former Red Wing Kris Draper and former Maple Leaf Gary Roberts slashed and shoved each other for real ominous weather forecasts Monday led the NHL to devise contingency plans for the Winter Classic — the Blues’ first outdoor venture and umpteenth for the Chicago Blackhawks — but the game went on, even though fog and clouds obscured the nearby Gateway Arch and took away from the atmosphere. Game-time temperature was 47.6 degrees.
P.K. vs. Montreal has been PPD. A key figure will be missing from the first encounter between the Montreal Canadiens and Nashville Predators since they exchanged franchise defensemen. P.K. Subban, out since suffering an upper-body injury Dec. 15, won’t play against the Canadiens on Tuesday at Bridgestone Arena. He was put on injured reserve Sunday and is expected to sit out at least two more weeks. He will have one more chance this season to face his old team, on March 2 at Montreal. By then the Predators could be out of the West playoff picture. Shea Weber is enjoying a strong season for the Canadiens, who lead the Atlantic Division.
Go out an understudy, come back a star. It’s not unusual for a team to sign an emergency backup goalie when the scheduled starter or backup can’t play, but a jersey and a thank you is usually all they get. Jorge Alves, an equipment manager for the Carolina Hurricanes, got 7.6 seconds of fame Saturday when Coach Bill Peters made a heartwarming move and sent Alves in to finish a 3-1 loss to Tampa Bay. Alves, who had painted his mask with images of his fellow equipment managers, had been doing his usual job of sharpening players’ skates between periods. “I have a duty with the team,” he told reporters. Only in hockey.