The Breadman rose to the occasion in the Blue Jackets season opener – big time.
1 goal, 1 assist, 3 shots on goal doesn’t even begin to tell the story of how dominant he was against the Red Wings and how dominant he can be in any given game. Panarin scored the game-winner after a lengthy overtime shift to give Columbus a 3-2 win. It’s fitting the game ended with the puck flying off his stick because that’s where it was for long stretches of time in this game. Panarin had the puck on his stick for over 2 minutes in the offensive zone last night. Context, that would have been a single-game season high for Panarin, who ranked top 5 in OZ possession per game, last season.
Panarin can make defenders miss in open ice as well as any player in the league. He’s slippery and that’s one reason he’s able to hang onto the puck for long stretches of time. Not only did Panarin dominate from a possession standpoint, he was the most active player transitioning the puck and creating quality chances last night. Last season, Panarin exited the defensive zone with possession of the puck an average of 8 times per game, which ranked top 10 in the league. He had 14 controlled exits last night. Panarin entered the attacking end with possession an average of 6.5 times per game last season, which also ranked top 10. He had 9 controlled entries last night. Throw in his high number of shots from and passes to the slot and you’ve got a monster game from one of the most dynamic offensive players in the world.
Oh ya, Panarin is going to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. This kid is going to get paid and rightfully so. What an opening night performance and we won’t have to wait long to see what Panarin can do for an encore as the Blue Jackets host the Hurricanes tonight.
(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)