The NHL dropped the puck in their shortened 56-game season on Wednesday and one thing became clear: the next 115 nights – which will be crowded into 863 games – are going to be doozies. The opening night brought us a bit of everything: a banner with no fans, a very dramatic puck drop, a fight, overtime, a dizzying amount of publicity, and 37 goals combined.
Here are our main takeaways:
1. The Montreal Canadiens should be players in the North Division
When taking the Toronto Maple Leafs — the Team that everyone predicts To run away with the division – to work overtime, the Habs made a statement. Don’t count out Montreal. There’s a lot to like about General Manager Marc Bergevin’s off-season. He added depth at every position, from the goalkeeper (solid support) Jake Allen) for defense (Joel Edmundsonas well as the arrival of the top view Alexander Romanovwho looked great on his debut at 10:49 pm)Tyler Toffoli was got the great free agent, however Josh Anderson was the first to make himself popular with the fan base with a major effort (including two goals).
The timeline is significantly accelerated, especially for 20 year olds Jesperi Kotkaniemi and 21 years old Nick Suzuki ready to make a contribution. A game like on Wednesday shows that the Canadians are bragging rights.
“We were the better team out there,” said Anderson afterwards.
2. Things look different, but we will adapt
The NHL’s summer bubble taught us that empty hockey arenas are great for a TV product. The lack of fans never distracted; The net covering the seats in the 100 level definitely helps, and the broadcasts mostly perfected the ambient noise. But a lot has changed since summer too. The NHL calculated its losses by disrupting its normal schedule, and Commissioner Gary Bettman said the league and its clubs will lose billions – not millions – to even host a 2021 season. (Gate revenue generated directly and indirectly from games accounts for roughly 50% of league revenue, and currently only the Coyotes, Panthers, and Stars plan on having fans with limited capacity.)
So the NHL is getting a little more aggressive on the hunt for revenue. For the first time, the league sold naming rights to its division names. You won’t often hear me refer to me as the MassMutual NHL East Division, but you will hear it on your broadcasts. A lot of. The league also had teams put advertisements on their helmets for the first time. However, they are so discreet that I didn’t notice (or bother) them much. Ads in the arena, however? Holy cow, it felt like overload. Most noticeable were the indicators circling the glass above the boards. In Tampa it was little Adidas logos. In Edmonton, the words “Rogers 5G” were printed over and over again around the glass. It was a lot. But perspective: It’s about keeping people busy and entertaining us.
3. It’s going to be a long season in Chicago
A game against the defending champions may not be the best barometer, but the 5-1 on Wednesday lightning felt as brutal as it was inevitable for them Blackhawks. Chicago went on from the franchise legend Corey Crawford (the only goalkeeper in team history to have won multiple Stanley Cups) to an unproven trio. Starter for game 1 Malcolm Subban had a few highlights worth highlighting but if this is the best defensive feat you can do yikes.
The blue line, which had been leaking all last season, often kept Subban high and dry. The Blackhawks found it difficult to generate a pre-auditor. No Crawford Brandon Saad, Alex Nylander, Kirby roof and Jonathan Toews – without an inspiring substitute – is a problem. The Blackhawks eventually admitted what their transactions made very clear: they are undergoing a renovation.
“We don’t have enough players from top to bottom to compete with the top teams.” GM Stan Bowman told me in October. “We have a lot of good players, we have a pretty good start to the conditions for a good team, but we still have a long way to go and I accept that.”
Chicago is using this season as a chance to give the young people reruns. While having a plan is admirable, it has to be felt Patrick Kane and Duncan Keithwho still give everything at a high level, but don’t have the support to imagine another championship soon.
4. Bring the offense
It has been a gradual trend in the NHL over the past five seasons, with goal averages slowly rising (3.02 goals per game / team last season) and average goalkeeper saving percentage falling (0.910 in 2019-20) . The first three games in the Eastern Conference alone brought us 24 goals (an average of four goals per team). A couple of goalkeepers I spoke to in the off-season – especially on teams that hadn’t played since March – said the long distance with no game situations would be challenging and possibly require a slight adjustment period. If you’ve been wondering how the lack of proper training camps and exhibitions could manifest itself in the preseason, expect some sloppy and wide-open games – at least to get the campaign started.
5. It’s not easy to be the favorite
I remember talking to myself Nathan MacKinnon before last season and he said it was the first time in his Colorado avalanche Career that he believed his team could actually win. The stakes will increase this year as MacKinnon constantly plays like an MVP and GM Joe Sakic continuously developing smart moves to make this team stronger. Colorado opened as a Stanley Cup favorite in Las Vegas that season. But it was a slow start for the Avs in their opener. They were too sloppy with the puck, which you can’t afford against the big, tough ones St. Louis Blues. I looked forward to seeing the line from Gabriel Landeskog, Nazem Kadri and Brandon Saadbut they didn’t look right together and it wasn’t long before coach Jared Bednar started shuffling his lines. Colorado’s typically high-functioning offense had a hard time generating much pressure. Credit St. Louis for a strong team game. And yes, it’s only Game 1. But now Colorado is spot on and there will be the best for every team every night.
On Wednesday, Patrick played his first NHL game in 652 days. (And you thought 2020 would be long!) Then he scored in the first phase of the power play (Philadelphia’s Achilles heel in the summer bubble). Draft number 2 for 2019 missed all of last season with a debilitating migraine disorder. It’s been a long story for Philly all season. GM Chuck Fletcher said last January that Patrick was making progress and the Flyers were optimistic that he could join a playoff push. Philly stocked up on deep centers at the close of trading last year to make up for it, but they’re in much better shape now with Patrick taking the third role behind him Sean Couturier and Kevin Hayes.
Meanwhile, Lindblom played for the first time since he was diagnosed with cancer in December 2019. Lindblom, who was having a breakout season at the time of his diagnosis, finished his last chemotherapy session in July.
“He’s a guy, when you see him in the locker room you want to go into battle with him,” said Hayes. “He’s a warrior. He hasn’t looked out of place.”
Even cuter: The Flyers’ fifth goal, originally credited Travis Konecny, was awarded to Lindblom hours after the game.
The Flyers offensive erupted with six goals – including three straight to the conclusion of the third – to defeat the rival Pittsburgh penguins in their opener, which shows why a lot of people in hockey expect the Flyers to compete against each other this year. This game really bent Philly’s depth. I’m buying the cup hype for this team.
7. A couple of young players to see the rest of the season
Nils Hoglander, the breakout star of the CanucksThe training camp will be the newest Swedish obsession in Vancouver. Without much competition behind him on the right wing, Hoglander managed to stay in the top six for a while. A goal in Hoglander’s first game means his hype is set to increase at Canadian media warp speed. The same goes for Alexander Romanov, who, as mentioned earlier, will play a big role in Montreal Shea Weber in the ice age on Wednesday. The defender played with a lot of confidence and Did you see that stretch pass?
The praised brochure system that the flyers built? With the first round player from 2018 it is now fully realized Joel Farabee shiny with a goal and three templates. Farabee, 20, seems to be taking a big step forward. And it will be good to see that Oiler‘ Kailer Yamamoto Get a full season after scoring 11 goals in 27 games last season (and one in Wednesday’s game against the Canucks). Look at the top power play and on Leon DraisaitlThe wing will only improve Yamamoto’s population.
Jordan Kyrou It hummed at the start of the blues, and it could be a reliable option for the low scoring. He said he gained 10 pounds this summer, but he doesn’t look like it will affect his speed.
And I’m not sure how much rookie defenders are Cal Foote will play with Tampa Bay but consider me intrigued. Coach Jon Cooper protected Foote’s minutes on his NHL debut against Chicago (he only logged 10:47) as he definitely showed some jitter in the first game, but Foote has promises. We’ll see if he’s back on the taxi team once the Lightning escapes their hell of the salary cap.
The 23-year-old American skater had the chance to become the first player in NHL history to score in five consecutive season openers. The first four happened randomly in Matthew’s first four NHL seasons. It didn’t happen to him against the Habs on Wednesday, although he hit a crossbar in the third. I still assume Matthews will be hunting Alex Ovechkin for the goal crown this season; He will simply have more catching up to do.