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Who’s Off to a Good Start in 2018-19?

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Looking for positives after two games

Columbus Blue Jackets v Detroit Red Wings Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The first two games of the 2018-19 regular season are behind us, with the Columbus Blue Jackets splitting the pair of road/home openers against Detroit and Carolina. It’s probably too early to identify many trends that could point to how the rest of the season will go, but we can find some positive signs from the season’s first week.

Joonas Korpisalo

Korpisalo started the season opener at Detroit in a stunning decision from John Tortorella, opting for the backup based on some specious “Start No. 1 Sergei Bobrovsky against a division opponent in a back-to-back” reasoning. Nobody’s buying it, but Korpisalo delivered a stellar start to earn the win, stopping 18 of 20 shots and making some remarkable saves in overtime.

The saga of Bob will drag on all season or until he’s dealt somewhere. On Friday, Bob looked solid in facing a ton of shots after giving up an early goal. The best way to mitigate the sturm und drang of Bobrovsky’s impending free agency is for Korpisalo to play well and give the Blue Jackets a comfortable decision in giving him starts. With Thursday’s performance, he may have earned the rights to man the net on Tuesday.

Brandon Dubinsky

Dubinsky was (and is) a question mark coming into this season. Could the former alternate captain regain some semblance of what made him a valuable addition to the club a few short years ago? The good news for No. 17 and CBJ fans is that his offseason regimen has been paying dividends throughout the preseason and the first two games. His line with Josh Anderson and Boone Jenner wrecked the Red Wings and he scored the team’s only goal against Carolina on Friday. Dubinsky had six goals and 16 points last season, and he’s already got a goal and and an assist. He’s also winning 68.8 percent of his faceoffs. Not too shabby for the 32-year-old center.

Ryan Murray and Markus Nutivaara

The absence of Seth Jones has created a vast, sucking void at the top of the Blue Jackets’ defensive corps that few in the NHL can fill. The CBJ coaching staff are doing what they can with David Savard and Zach Werenski while tinkering with the third pairing, swapping Adam Clendening in for Gabriel Carlsson after the season opener. Luckily, the Ryan Murray-Markus Nutivaara pair has proven reliable through the first week. The two limited the Athanasiou-Abdelkader-Vanek line while helping to hold the Red Wings to only 20 shots on the night. Murray, after suffering a groin injury in preseason, turned in 25:11 (!) of ice time in Detroit before anchoring a solid effort the next night in a general stinker of a game. Murray saw the bulk of his zone starts come in the defensive end and, with Nutivaara, kept the Hurricanes from going too crazy with shots on net. To wit:

HockeyViz.com

The Blue Jackets need Seth Jones back as soon as possible, but this pairing holding down the fort at No. 2 makes matters a little easier.

Who has impressed you through the first two games of the season?