The Blue Jackets suffered their first blowout loss of the season last night – an 8-2 walloping at the hands of the Tampa Bay Lightning – bringing their record to a still-respectable 3-2-0.
Here’s what we’ve learned over the course of those five games:
Bread = Still Good
The prevailing storyline this offseason for the Blue Jackets was Artemi Panarin’s seemingly imminent departure from the team. He’s still here – perhaps he will be through the end of this season – and he’s reminding everyone why he’ll be in such high demand this summer.
Through five games, he’s on a blistering 115-point pace – granted that it’s a short sample size and he probably won’t keep it up – but he’s predictably settled back in as the team’s top offensive producer. His three goals are tied for the team lead, and he’s added four assists – no one else on the team has more than four *points* – and certainly passes the eye test.
Nothing exemplifies that more than his overtime shift in the first game against the Detroit Red Wings – where he was out on the ice for 1:23 before putting the puck past Jimmy Howard to win the game.
— 1st Ohio Battery (@1stOhioBattery) October 5, 2018
If Bread’s days in Columbus are numbered, at this point it’s probably best to just sit back, watch and enjoy – players like him are rare and don’t come along very frequently.
Duclair a Pleasant Surprise
Following in Sam Gagner’s footsteps, Anthony Duclair signed a one-year, veteran minimum deal with the Blue Jackets this offseason and has immediately made an offensive impact.
Duclair has showcased some world-class speed to set up a couple of goals – and scored another one on the power play – as he looks to rebuild his reputation after not being tendered a contract by the Chicago Blackhawks this offseason.
Jarmo Kekalainen and the rest of the Blue Jackets front office have to be happy that they took a flier on the 23-year-old wing. Duclair put up 20 goals and 44 points as a 20 year-old with Arizona, and he certainly looks like that kind of impact player early on in Columbus.
A Few Pain Points
While a 3-2-0 record is nothing to panic over, it’s certainly worth noting that there have been plenty of points of concern so far.
With Seth Jones out, the Blue Jackets defense has looked lost at times and given up some sloppy turnovers in their own end. That doesn’t make things any easier for Sergei Bobrvsky and Joonas Korpisalo.
Speaking of the goalies, Korpisalo getting the start for the season opener was talked up quite a bit locally, with a few reading into it as a slight at Bobrovsky. While that’s probably not the case, his comments a few weeks ago don’t paint a picture of someone who’s very happy in Columbus – and Tortorella leaving him in for eight (!!) goals last night may suggest that there’s some tension there.
Then, there’s the forwards – Brandon Dubinsky looked great in the first two games before suffering an injury that will keep him out for a few weeks. Lukas Sedlak hasn’t looked great filling that spot, while Sonny Milano and Oliver Bjorkstrand – two highly-skilled guys – have seen their ice time shrink as a result. Then, there’s Josh Anderson, who started last night’s game on the fourth line. According to a report by SportsNet’s Nick Kypreos – which Anderson’s agent denies – Anderson is seeking a trade out of Columbus.
The forwards are clearly talented, but may have some awkward fits as far as playing style. The defense is sloppy without their leader and lethargic at times. And the goaltending situation is getting a bit dicey.
It’s still early – and it’s certainly not time to panic – but don’t expect everything to be smooth sailing.
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