NHL Opening Weekend Thoughts

#hockeyisback!  This NHL-driven hashtag was news to me, as I managed to take in one college and three AHL games in the October-December timeframe.  That minor annoyance aside, I’ve been on hockey overdrive since 2:00pm CST Saturday.  And, of course, I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t have a few thoughts on the first 19 games of the 2013-2013 NHL season.  And away we go:

  • How ’bout them old guys?  Jaromir Jagr (age 40) and Teemu Selanne (42) with 2G & 2A apiece on Saturday night.  Honorable mentions to Panthers’ signee Alex Kovalev (1G,2A, will turn 40 next month) and my favorite waterbug, Marty St. Louis (2G,1A, turns 38 in June).  In this rushed, disjointed start to the season, veteran players will have a significant advantage.
  • That said, how ’bout them young guys?  Several rookies made some noise over the weekend, including Florida’s Jonathan Huberdeau (1G,2A), the Blues’ Vladimir Tarasenko (2G on 5 shots in just 13:52 TOI) and Tampa’s Cory Conacher (1G,1A).  The race for the Calder is officially underway.
  • Opening weekend in the NHL was fun to watch, but boy, was it UGLY.  It’s painfully apparent that the teams which made the fewest offseason personnel changes have a distinct advantage over the movers and shakers.  Other factors are in play, such as players coming in rusty vs. in mid-season form (those who sat vs. those who played through the lockout), but new faces trying to learn new systems on the fly are the biggest obstacle teams now face.
  • I’m not worried about the Rangers’ 0-2-0 start, because see above.  Rick Nash is working his tail off to fit in, but with the additions of Taylor Pyatt, Jeff Halpern and Aaron Asham (and let’s not forget Chris Kreider, who has now played a total of TWO regular season games), only one of the Blueshirts’ four lines features a trio which played together last season (Gaborik-Stepan-Callahan)…and with Torts’ tendency to mix ‘n match his lines, even those guys didn’t see many shifts together.  The Rangers will be just fine…in 2-3 weeks.
  • As a longtime anti-fan of TheHatedRedWings, I was pleasantly surprised to see them humiliated by the Blues, 6-0, Saturday night.  That loss could be a one-off, or it could be a harbinger of things to come.  For too many years, Detroit has consistently been prepared for the “big” games, putting together a winning record against teams over .500.  If Saturday night was any indication, a new era has dawned in Detroit.
  • TheHatedRedWings loss makes tonight’s tilt against the new (and yes, improved) Columbus Blue Jackets must-see TV.  Columbus, after finishing dead last in the NHL in 2011-12, traded away their best player, the aforementioned Mr. Nash.  Many, if not most, pundits are predicting another basement finish for the Jackets.  Thus, the Blue Jackets are now playing with The Freedom of Low Expectations, which makes them quite dangerous.  Though they also face the issue of assimilating new faces (Anisimov, Dubinsky, Foligno, Aucoin and Bobrovsky), any early struggles will be offset by another factor:  I suspect many other teams will view a game against Columbus as a night off.  They’ll do so at their own peril.  Tonight’s Detroit-Columbus game might say much about both clubs.

About Matt Pryor

Freelance writer of hockey, history and travel. Born and raised in Texas. Saw first hockey game 22 FEB 1980 (USA 4, USSR 3), was instantly hooked. Attended first NHL game 26 DEC 1981 (Colorado Rockies 6, Calgary Flames 3). Semi-retired beer league player. Shoots left.


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