The Columbus Blue Jackets’ 2018 season came to an abrupt end—losing four straight games to the Washington Capitals in the first round of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs. To make matters worse, the offseason was highlighted by Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky not re-signing with Columbus.
After all that, there’s still a legitimate cup contender in Columbus, Ohio.
Usually it’s appropriate to dig into the stat books and get fancy when making predictions. Not this season:
Sergei Bobrovsky will of course be the starting goaltender for the CBJ once again (in most games). In a nutshell, Sergei puts the team on his back during the regular season, then, in the playoffs, has been underwhelming for the most part.
The top line for the Blue Jackets consists of Artemi Panarin, Pierre-Luc Dubois and Cam Atkinson. The trio makes one of the more-dangerous scoring lines in the entire league and Dubois provides an impressive physical presence in the middle to give the squad a nice edge.
Defenseman Zach Werenski is healthy once again after playing injured during the 2017-18 season for Columbus. Werenski left no doubt he’s “back” in his preseason debut Friday night at Nationwide Arena with four assists against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Meanwhile, Defenseman Seth Jones is out for the first month or so with a lower-body injury. When he’s back there’s no doubt him and Werenski will be nothing short of spectacular paired up with one another.
John Tortorella has been a steady force as the head coach of the club. Last season his team had a long stretch of lousy offense, but he said all the right things and kept the players believing. He’ll look to coach the CBJ to their third-straight playoff berth.
The “Who’s Gonna Step Up” Bunch
The second line for the Jackets consists of Nick Foligno, Alexander Wennberg and Oliver Bjorkstrand. All three of these players have simply underperformed to what they’re capable of. Who’s gonna step up? We’ll see.
The “Hot-And-Cold” Line
The third line consists of Boone Jenner, Brandon Dubinsky and Josh Anderson. Last season Dubinsky was a massive disappointment, Josh Anderson held out and took awhile to get going and Boone Jenner took several months before he found his stride. I can’t confirm this, but it looks like Dubinsky could be a key component to the penalty kill and appears to be skating a little bit faster. As for Jenner and Anderson, they’re two players who are extremely dangerous when they’re “on”. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case for much of their time on the ice during the past campaign.
The Bonus Line
The fourth line generally is there to create energy, and allow for the top three lines to get some rest. However, in this case, we’ll refer to the CBJ 4th line as the “bonus line” because there are players who have the ability to step up into a larger role as the season progresses. Sonny Milano, Riley Nash and Anthony Duclair make up the “bonus line” that looks to make a statement early on in 2018. Milano is a youngster who should be getting better, Nash played some pivotal minutes for an injury-riddled Boston Bruins team last season and Duclair is still young and seems to be a guy who might’ve finally landed in the right spot.
As a matter of fact, Emily Kaplan, National Hockey Writer for ESPN made a bold prediction regarding Anthony Duclair. She wrote:
Anthony Duclair, an unrealized talent whom the Blue Jackets took a flier on, settles into a top-six role and finally breaks through with 30 goals. The twice-traded 23-year-old always had the speed and skill, but never the finish. Smartest $650,000 ever spent!
Also, don’t forget, Milano thrived early on last year, scoring four goals in the first three games of the 2017-18 regular season.
Let The Season Begin Already
You never know what you’re gonna get in the National Hockey League on a game-to-game basis, let alone on opening night. The Jackets did prove that they can be a force on the road last season, and they’ll prove it again on Thursday night. The CBJ win their season opener by a final score of 4-2 over the Detroit Red Wings. Even with Joonas Korpisalo getting the start in net.