Drop the Puck: Opening Weekend
The National Hockey League opened its 2010-2011 season for business on October 7 and the first weekend (Oct 7 – Oct 10) featured some memorable games from some of the biggest names in hockey, the opening of a new arena, and renewals of some of hockey’s most intense rivalries.
The NHL 2010-2011 season began in Helsinki, Finland as the Carolina Hurricanes took on the Minnesota Wild. Commissioner Gary Bettman has been starting the NHL season in European venues for several years now in an effort to not only grow the game internationally, but as reward for those players who call home places such as Czechoslovakia, Russia, and, in 2010, Finland.
The Minnesota Wild and Carolina Hurricanes got things going this season with the Hurricanes winning 4-3 behind two goals by Brandon Sutter. Jussi Jokinen, a Finnish native, also scored for Carolina.
The opening night also included four games featuring classic rivalries. Two of the most storied Canadian franchises, the Montreal Canadians and the Toronto Maple Leafs, played in the NHL’s capitol Toronto while in western Canada, the Edmonton Oilers hosted the Calgary Flames.
Goalie Jean-Sebastian Gigure played a huge role in the Maple Leafs’ opening night win, saving the game with his left pad, stopping Montreal captain Brian Gionta not once, but twice, as the buzzer sounded. Gigure’s spectacular saves pushed the Leafs off to just the fast start that they needed, and the fans are looking for some type of hope after a half-decade of losing.
In Western Canada, the Edmonton game was noteworthy since left winger Tyler Hall made his NHL debut. Hall, the number one pick in the 2010 entry draft and one of the most ballyhooed pick in recent years, was held off the score sheet and was overshadowed by another rookie, Jordan Eberle, who scored a beautiful short-handed goal. Goalie Nikolai Khabibulin made 37 saves for the Oilers as the worst team in the National Hockey League last season started off on a winning note.
NHL’s Publicity Machine
The other opening night games showcased the two teams that the NHL publicity machine is hanging its hat on — the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks and the 2008 Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins.
Both marquee teams lost in one-goal games. In their first game defending the Cup in Colorado, Chicago was defeated by the home-standing Avalanche as Paul Stastny scored the second of his two goals in overtime.
In Pittsburgh, the Penguins opened-up a new building, the CONSOL Energy Center, and, after the hoopla was over and the red carpet rolled-up, the hated Flyers defeated the Pens 3-2, sending the home crowd home disappointed on opening night.
Winners (October 7 – 10)
Toronto Map Leafs 2-0
The Maple Leafs posted two impressive victories, against Montreal on opening night, and against the Ottawa Senators, 5-1, on Saturday, October 9. Gigure won both games in goal, and, in the Ottawa game, five different players scored goals, including Phil Kessel’s second goal, the eventual game-winner. The two-game winning streak is meaningful to Toronto not just because they got off to a good start but because of the real improvement this beginning really means. The Maple Leafs didn’t win their second game until 14 games in so, after the first weekend, optimism is running high up north.
Carolina Hurricanes 2-0
The Hurricanes made the most of their season-opening trip to Helsinki, winning both games against the Wild. In game one, Carolina won 4-3 and, in the second game, the Hurricanes won in a shoot-out, 2-1. That game featured a duel between the Wild’s Niklas Backstrom and Carolina’s Cam Ward, who ended-up winning both games in goal. Rookie Jeff Skinner clinched the game in OT with the only goal of the shoot-out.
Detroit Red Wings 2-0
The Wings started off opening weekend fast, with a 4-0 win over the Anaheim Ducks and 3-2 at Chicago, spoiling the Blackhawks home opener in front of a packed house. Jimmy Howard produced a shut-out in the first game, turning aside 21 shots, and Mike Modano scored his first goal as a Red Wing. On Saturday, the Wings went into Chicago and silenced the home crowd on the strength of two Valtteri Filppula goals. Did the Chicago game renew the Red Wings’ dominance? Probably not, but it closed the gap between the two teams temporarily.
Edmonton Oilers 2-0
For a last place team a year ago, a 2-0 start to the new season is meaningful. The Oilers got stellar play from Khabibulin in both home games and, in their 3-2 win over the Florida Panthers, Edmonton’s Hall got his first point, an assist, as an NHL player.
Dallas Stars 2-0
The Stars began their season in the Big Apple and came away with two thrilling road wins, the first in OT, and the second in a shoot-out, over the New Jersey Devils and New York Islanders. Loui Eriksson scored two goals in the opener, including one in overtime, and, in the second game, Brenden Marrow had the hot hand, scoring twice. The Stars Kari Lehtonen was strong in goal, winning both games, and Dallas returns home this week with an undefeated record.
Losers (October 7 -10)
Pittsburgh Penguins 0-2
The Pens, opening their new digs in the CONSOL Center, lost both games 3-2 to two hated rivals, the Flyers and the Montreal Canadians. The Pens, leading 2-1, had a chance to put the game away, but Mike Cammalleri and Scott Gomez scored two goals within a 24-second span. Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury had a rough start and superstar Sidney Crosby was held off the score sheet in both games.
Ottawa Senators 0-2
Ottawa lost the first two games of their season by a combined score of 7-2, scoring 1 goal in each of their losses to the Buffalo Sabres and at home against the Maple Leafs. Goalie Pascal Leclaire let in 7 goals and the Senators went 0-9 on the power play.
Anaheim Ducks 0-2
Anaheim’s road trip to Detroit and Nashville turned ugly as they lost 4-1 and 5-1. Jonas Hiller took the loss in both games and were outshot 92-58. Anaheim returns home next week looking for some better luck.
In the Fantasy Corner
Most of you have just finished your drafts and, it is way too early to start thinking about fantasy winners/losers but owners of these players should be feeling pretty good:
Alex Ovchekin, Washington Capitals
2 Goals, 4 points. Ovchekin proved once again why he is your league’s #1 pick.
Brad Richards, Dallas Stars
1 Goal, 4 points. Richards is off to a hot start, and should be an early start.
# 3 Star
Derek Roy, Buffalo Sabres
3 Goals, 3 points. Roy is a proven goal scorer but he won’t keep-up this pace.
Derek Stepan, New York Rangers
3 Goals, 3 points. The rookie center had a hat trick on Saturday night. You might want to pick-up this guy.
It’s really too early to discuss goalies but a few goaltenders who were off the fantasy radar got off to hot starts.
Cam Ward, Carolina Panthers
2-0, 1.92 GAA, .944 save %. He’s a premier goalie on a bad team.
Jean-Sebastian Gigure, Toronto Maple Leafs
2-0, 1.51 GAA, .935 save %. Gigure is off to a great start, but can his team keep it going?
Jimmy Howard, Detroit Red Wings
1-0, 0.00 GAA, 1.000 save %. Howard can’t get much better, pitching a shut-out, but splits with Osgood a cause for concern.
Until next week – hit the ice running and don’t draw any unsportsmanlike penalties.