Allow me to summarize the good things that happened for the Columbus Blue Jackets this weekend: at least the Canadiens didn’t pry a standings point in losing to the Penguins on Saturday.
Yep, that’s about it.
After falling 4-0 to the struggling Edmonton Oilers on Saturday, the Blue Jackets fell 5-2 to the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday. In a time where every game really counts, Columbus managed zero of a possible four points during those two games.
And, really, after going all-in at the trade deadline, things have basically been going all-wrong.
They’ve now lost three of four games since deciding to keep Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky, while also loading up on players, most notably Matt Duchene. (Columbus also only managed four points out of a five-game homestand, going 2-3-0.)
Generally speaking, the Penguins, Hurricanes, and Canadiens have been taking care of their business while Columbus is fighting it — the Penguins even beat Columbus in regulation (5-2) the day after the deadline.
With the Hurricanes winning dramatically on Saturday, and the Penguins beating Montreal, the standings look troubling for Columbus:
Metro 3 – Hurricanes: 36-23-6: 78 points, 65 games played, 35 regulation/OT wins
Wild card 1 – Penguins: 34-22-9: 77 points, 65 GP, 33 ROW
WC 2 – Canadiens: 35-24-7: 77 points, 66 GP, 33 ROW
Ninth: Blue Jackets: 36-26-3, 75 points, 65 GP, 36 ROW
Of course, this weekend doesn’t totally submarine the Blue Jackets’ dreams. They still have 17 games remaining in the regular season, including crucial back-to-back games against the Penguins (March 7 and 9) coming up next week.
But the pall that went over the crowd in Columbus on Sunday really hammered home the fears that the Blue Jackets won’t just fall frustratingly short of a deep run like years past — there’s legitimate concern about making the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs at all.
It’s not like the Blue Jackets played terribly on Sunday, even though they were wrapping up a back-to-back set.
They generated a 42-26 shots on goal advantage against the Jets, and you can’t explain it away as “score effects” alone, as the game was tied 2-2 going into the third period. Artemi Panarin did his part with two assists, but Blake Wheeler‘s four-goal output ended up making the difference.
It’s silly to say Columbus isn’t trying, or to throw Panarin under the bus, but one legitimate worry – beyond the Blue Jackets’ place in the standings – is the play of Sergei Bobrovsky.
He allowed four goals in each of the past two games, even though Bob only played in two of three periods on Saturday. After generating back-to-back shutouts heading into the trade deadline, Bobrovsky’s allowed an ugly 15 goals in his last four appearances.
Whether it’s a coincidence, Bobrovsky faltering in a clutch, almost playoff-like situation once again, or this being a matter of an unhappy goalie who wanted out of Columbus, the Blue Jackets must think long and hard about how much they should count on Bobrovsky instead of, say, Joonas Korpisalo or Keith Kinkaid down the stretch.
Because, frankly, they can’t really survive many more weekends – or even days – like these.
James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.