This is a now or last stretch for Artemi Panarin's Columbus Blue Jackets, with at least a few of their key players heading out after this season and right now the team is sitting on the "never" side of affairs. The Blue Jackets lost to the poor Edmonton Oilers on Thursday night, which, along with a shutout win of the Canadiens against the Islanders, dropped Columbus out of the eight-game playoff image back. The Blue Jackets have picked up a point from their last three games and if their goal this year is to win a playoff series for the first time in franchise history – which would almost certainly require avoiding top-seeded Lightning in the first round – something needs to be changed.
Blue Jackets starting goalkeeper Joonas Korpisalo because their coach said Sergei Bobrovsky is "nicked" what it means – struggled to establish a presence in an ugly, boring game that was 1- 1 to 2 periods last night. But as soon as Ken Hitchcock decided to reunite his two best players on a line instead of separating Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid, they were picked apart when the couple were on the ice for each of the Oilers' three third term goals in 4-1 win. In the Flames game on Tuesday, the jackets started well with a Zach Werenski goal, but then seemed to turn off defensively as they allowed three straight Flames goals in 10 minutes. A 2-1 OT loss in Boston on the second game from back-to-back was more forgiving, but since the loss on Saturday is all trending in the wrong direction.
The team itself seems to disagree on what the problem is. After the Oilers loss, the new acquisition, Matt Duchene, said the pressure the team faced caused them to fall.
"I don't even think desperation is the right word, for we are desperate right now, but it freezes us," he said. "I think we need to be a little looser and more excited about what is at stake here, rather than feeling the weight of it."
But head coach John Tortorella sounds like he wants his team to be freaking out more than they are. "I wish there was panic in the game because it would show some desperation," he said. "So I don't agree with that."
"We just need some sort of urgency to try to get into this, or we have no chance. I just don't think we understand the level we're gonna play right now," he also said.
So it's time that Blue Jacket's panic … or not. No matter what their heart rate is when they are on the ice, Columbus must just win games. They now have a slightly less than 50 percent chance of making the off-season, almost 16 percent from 24 hours ago. Vancouver on Sunday is a place where the jackets can try to get back on track, but if they don't stay there, this last little stretch will be very dangerous. Four of their following five games will be against teams currently in the playoff image, including a major home game against Montreal on Thursday.