After a pair of games in jolly old England, the bulk of the NHL season is finally underway. So far in this season’s handful of games, I personally have noticed that the pace seems to be a little faster, though the defense is a little tighter. And the new unis? By and large, they suck — especially for Dallas and St. Louis.
Ilya Bryzgalov is getting the starts for Anaheim while Jean-Sebastian Giguere continues to mend. Maybe his Ducks teammates wanted to give him some sort of hazing ritual because they really didn’t help him out against Detroit, where he only had 15 shots of support going the other way.
On the other side of that game, don’t read too much into Dominik Hasek’s performance — or the Red Wings, for that matter. The fatigued Ducks will probably be much better the next time when they don’t have to deal with a cross-Atlantic flight.
Did you draft Paul Stastny? I almost did — I was drafting for a friend who couldn’t make it and I took Stastny for him, not me. I questioned the move at the time since I was confidant that Stastny would not have a sophomore slump, but I wanted to be a good friend. Stastny’s opening night hat trick makes me think friendship is overrated.
Staying in Colorado, did anyone notice Stastny’s linemates? The young star was playing with Andrew Brunette and NHL newcomer Jaroslav Hlinka. Brunette’s a proven quantity and Stastny is emerging, which may make Hlinka a good sleeper pick.
Up in Toronto, pseudo-saviour Vesa Toskala did not start on opening night after an atrocious preseason. He did start the next night, however, and lost 3-2 to the hated Sens. Toskala’s not the type of guy to get emotionally shaken, though, so look for him to steady out in his new surroundings in the upcoming months.
San Jose is trying an all-star line of Jonathan Cheechoo, Joe Thornton, and Patrick Marleau. The trio produced San Jose’s two opening-night goals. You may think that the Sharks put all their eggs in one basket; for this game, at least, it wasn’t true — Milan Michalek and rookie Torey Mitchell generated their fare share of chances, including several clangs off the iron.
And just as we predicted in our season preview, Marc-Edouard Vlasic is starting the season getting considerable power play time for San Jose.
In the Big Apple, Tom Renney has gone against what everyone suspected and used two lines of Jaromir Jagr-Chris Drury-Martin Straka and Brendan Shanahan-Scott Gomez-Sean Avery. Drury/Jagr combined for the bulk of the Rangers’ goals opening night — could this be Drury’s first point-per-game season?
The fat lady has not sung in Nashville, at least for the on-ice product. With Alexander Radulov starting on the third line, the top line lies on the shoulders of Jason Arnott and J.P. Dumont. Remember, Steve Sullivan will still be out for a few months.
Finally, in Philadelphia, Daniel Briere is trying to prove all the naysayers (like myself) wrong, and he’s off to a good start — two goals and six shots on opening night.
The Week Ahead
Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin get their respective seasons started Friday night with games against Carolina and Atlanta.
How will the new-look Sabres fare? With two games against the New York Islanders, they really won’t be tested too hard to start the season.
Sharks rookie Devin Setoguchi (a pre-season scoring leader) didn’t make opening night because of an injury in practice. Look for him to make his debut either Friday night in Vancouver or Sunday night in Colorado.
Saturday night’s big Hockey Night In Canada matchups? Montreal/Toronto and Vancouver/Calgary. The first game is interesting for historical purposes, but the second game may be a defensive snoozefest with a 1-0 shootout win in the 70th round.