Where do we start?
To begin the first 2018-19 installment of "The Fuse," there couldn't be a more appropriate question. The Blue Jackets are...confusing. And that's putting it lightly.
Less than a week ago, they picked up a road win in Detroit and played a solid game. They weren't outstanding, but they looked alright. It was the type of outing you normally see early in the season: your top players take a while to get going (but the best player made the biggest play of the game), some of the unsung heroes pick up the slack, and you find a way to win.
In their home opener, well, it was a different story.
Without going down the road of a total re-hashing, the Blue Jackets lacked the standard "home opener" energy. Forget the 13-minute glass delay. The Carolina Hurricanes sat through the same delay, and they sat through the lengthy pre-game introductions – they weren't feeling sorry for anyone.
Their only bit of offense was a first-period rebound goal from Brandon Dubinsky, who's now out of action for up to six weeks with an oblique muscle injury. Not great. The Blue Jackets have been a 30-plus shot team in each of their first two games, but the quality of chances they're creating leaves plenty to be desired. It's just not enough. And it doesn't take a genius to figure out that it starts with their top guys – outside of a few shifts, they haven't been there nearly enough.
Artemi Panarin? With confidence, I can say Friday night was the first time I've thought to myself "did he do anything noteworthy?" It rarely happens.
The Hurricanes are a damn good team (we'll get to them in a moment), but for goodness' sake, were the Blue Jackets not ready for them? And they couldn't get more than one goal past Curtis McElhinney? Oy vey.
Folks. The Hurricanes are legit.
Back in my prediction-making days, such a proclamation would come back to bite me in the ass by, say, mid-November. But I feel pretty good about this one. I thought they played a really strong game on Friday night – particularly with their checking, which John Tortorella pointed out – but Sunday afternoon was an entirely different story.
That was, easily, the most fun game of the weekend (with apologies to Maple Leafs-Blackhawks).
Down 5-4, the Hurricanes scored four times in the third period and completely stunned the New York Rangers. Their depth players were scoring, their promising kids were scoring, and everything was clicking. Now, it won't be that way every night, but there are a lot of reasons to believe this edition of the Hurricanes (led by franchise legend Rod Brind'Amour behind the bench) is different.
They lead the division!**
**shut up, Rob, it's Oct. 9.
But don't say I didn't tell you so when, in the thick of the race next spring, the Hurricanes are competing for one of the three playoff spots in the Metro Division. Are they good enough to challenge for the division? Prevailing wisdom says they aren't (yet) but stranger things have happened. Like, an expansion team going to the Stanley Cup Final.
NEXT MAN UP
Today, we'll leave you with this.
The Blue Jackets have some concern with Dubinsky on the shelf. Lukas Sedlak figures to draw in tonight against the Colorado Avalanche, but beyond that, who knows? Kevin Stenlund was right there at the end of training camp, and Vitaly Abramov will have something to say before this season gets too old. Sonny Milano is here in Columbus playing seven minutes a night, for some reason.
If we're truly going on merit here, it's getting close to the time when you consider a change.
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