It’s time to push the panic button in Columbus

Scott Billeck
NBC Sports

Or maybe it’s time to push it a second time. Or hammer it. Yes, maybe that.

After a tough loss to the Calgary Flames, a visit to see the woeful Edmonton Oilers was where the bleeding should have stopped for the Columbus Blue Jackets.

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It should have.

Instead, the gash only grew on Thursday night.

The Blue Jackets loaded a ball into that noisy cannon of theirs, lit the fuse and found out it was a dud in a 4-1 loss against the Edmonton Oilers, a game Columbus managed just 20 shots against a team that’s given up the sixth most goals this year.

Columbus opened the scoring in the game in the second period and held Edmonton’s forwards to just four shots through two periods. They allowed just 10 shots total through 40. And then the third came and the wheels fell off and the shots kept coming and the Oilers scored three unanswered send Columbus to their second consecutive defeat.

What’s worse, their poor outing allowed the Montreal Canadiens, who were on the right side of a 4-0 decision against the New York Islanders, to leapfrog them into the final wildcard in the Eastern Conference.

Matt Duchene said he felt his teammates have become paralyzed by the pressure.

John Tortorella said, “I just don’t think we understand the level that we have to play at right now.”

The hockey world agreed with both assessments.

A team that desperately needs to string together multiple wins, the Blue Jackets have taken two points just four times in their past 10 games. Montreal hasn’t been much better with five wins in the same span, but those extra two points are looking might big right now.

Columbus sold the farm and next year’s crop to pick up Duchene and others at the trade deadline. They now stand to lose a playoff spot, and that might be the least of their concerns if names like Bobrovsky, Panarin, Duchene and Dzingel go bye-bye after the season ends.

There are no games in hand for Columbus. Both they and the Canadiens each have eight games remaining. The Blue Jackets need to square away their issues and figure out who to win.

They still hold their own playoff fate in their hands, with a meeting next week against the Canadiens likely the decider on who makes it and who doesn’t. But their next test awaits in Vancouver on Sunday, a game they can ill-afford to look past.

Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

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