October 12 – Opening Day – What to choose?

The day we’ve all been waiting for is finally upon us: Opening day of the NHL season.  It’s time to see if *insert the name of your favorite team’s GM here* made any good decisions during the off-season, or if you’ll just spend the next seven months cursing at your television set.

Oh wait, you’ll be doing that even if your team is good?  Carry on, then.

Just like last year’s opener, we’ve got four games on the docket.  Some stats about them?  Sure, I thought you’d never ask!

Two contests will occur in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave, and the other two will be under the red and white maple leaf where many citizens of the first nation might be headed after November’s election.  Similarly, no teams will be crossing any national borders, meaning that it will be American vs. American and Canadian vs. Canadian clubs.  Each timezone will also be represented in this evening’s festivities, beginning in Eastern time and traveling across the map towards the Pacific.

Tonight will feature Toronto visiting Ottawa in the Battle of Ontario at 7 p.m. (SN and TVAS), followed an hour later by St. Louis at Chicago (NBCSN).  10 p.m. marks the puck drop of Calgary at Edmonton (SN and TVAS2), the first installment of the Battle of Alberta this year, followed half an hour later by Los Angeles at San Jose (NBCSN) to start this season’s Battle of California.  All times eastern.

Which one to pick… which one to pick…

I know: all of them.

That’s right, each game is too special not to watch this evening, so we’re going to break tradition (does a series only in its second year have traditions?) and feature all four of tonight’s games.  So without further to do, let’s get some quick previews in before you get watching.

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This game is a special one not simply because of the rivalry that exists between these squads, but that it is also the first official game that the Leafs will be sporting their new logo as well as the first wearing of their road whites.  As explained here, the level of symbolism in the new crest is pretty cool, including references to the 1931 opening of the Maple Leaf Gardens (hint: count the points of the leaf), the 1917 foundation of the franchise and their 13 Stanley Cup titles (hint: count the veins, and note a majority of their locations above the word mark).

Beyond that, this is also a rivalry game, and probably one of the four most circled dates on the Sens‘ calendar (the other three being the remainder of this series).  Ottawa swept the season series last year and certainly has intentions of continuing that success after the summer break.

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If you’re a little bit old-school and enjoy a good hockey scrap, this is probably your game this evening – this series leads the league in fights and penalty minutes.

This has been one of the best rivalries in recent years, and that has only intensified – twice – since the end of April, which witnessed St. Louis beating the Blackhawks in Game 7 to advance to the Western Semifinals, and eventually the Western Finals.  Chicago will look to exact revenge against a Notes squad that ended their title defense earlier than they would have liked.

Further dirtying the waters, the Blues and Blackhawks played a preseason game only 11 days ago. My opinions on division rivals contesting exhibitions deserves another post, but the net result was a questionable blow from Niklas Hjalmarsson against Ty Rattie. The defenseman was suspended for the remainder of the preseason as well as tonight’s game for throwing a leaping shoulder at the right wing’s head. Although he was not injured, Rattie’s linemates were quick to converge on Hjalmarsson, and I fully expect there to be some carryover both tonight and November 9 after the defenseman returns.

Unknown-4200px-Logo_Edmonton_Oilers.svgThe third of our four rivalries this evening, this edition of the Battle of Alberta is special in a similar way to the Battle of Ontario.  This will be the first official game played in Rogers Place after 42 years at Rexall Place, and what better way to commemorate it than with naming Connor McDavid the youngest captain in NHL history.

And you thought Sidney Crosby was a baby-faced captain.

The Oil‘s new home, located almost dead-center in downtown Edmonton, increases their seating capacity by almost 2000 and moves them to the bottom of the list of oldest arenas – a list they ranked second in a year ago.

Speaking of new beginnings, the Oilers hope to continue rebuilding towards the days of old with this year’s first rounder, Jesse Puljujärvi.  Perhaps this game will be a sampler of how Todd McLellan intends to use his offensive youngsters this season.

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The final game of the night should be one of the better ones.  The Battle of California has extended into the playoffs for three of the last four seasons, including San Jose advancing to the Western Semifinals, and eventually the Stanley Cup Finals, over the Kings in five games last season.  This should be a fantastic game, one well worth staying awake for if you’re tuning in from the East Coast.

Best of luck to your team if they’re playing this evening.  If not, we’ll see you tomorrow!

Hockey Birthday

  • Jaroslav Drobný (1921-2001) – Tennis aficionados are raising their eyebrows at this one. Drobný may be more commonly known for his three major titles (including two French Opens), but he was also a highly successful amateur hockey player. In 1947, he was a part of the Czechoslovakian team that took gold at the World Ice Hockey Championships, where he scored 15 goals in seven games, including a hat trick against the Stars and Stripes. He also helped Czechoslovakia to the silver medal in the Winter Olympics a year later, “falling” to Canada in a goalless championship game. He scored nine goals in eight games in St. Moritz, Switzerland. Drobný impressed the Boston Bruins in that tournament, and they offered him a $20,000 contract. If he hadn’t declined to focus on his tennis career, he would’ve been the first European to play in the NHL (instead, Swede Ulf Sterner takes that title, joining the Rangers 16 years later in 1965). He was inducted into the IIHF Hall of Fame in 1997.
  • Denis Brodeur (1930-2013) – Father of Devils‘ legendary goaltender Martin Brodeur, Denis also knew his way around the crease. He was on the Canadian team that took bronze in the 1956 Winter Olympics at Cortina D’Ampezzo, Italy.
  • J.J. Daigneault (1965) – The defender made his NHL debut during the 1984-’85 season with Vancouver, but the 10-team journeyman will be most known for his days with the Canadiens. He played six seasons and seven games in Montréal, 39% of his 900 regular season-game career. He currently serves as an assistant coach with the Habs, a position he’s held since 2012.
  • Dwayne Roloson (1969) – This goaltender made his NHL debut during the 1996-’97 season with the Calgary Flames. He played in 606 regular season games, most of which were with the Edmonton Oilers (193 games over four seasons).
  • Mike Green (1985) – Although this is his second season in Detriot, this will be the defenseman’s 12th season in the league. Most of that time was spent in Washington, where he played in 575 regular season games and seven postseasons.
  • Sean Monahan (1994) – Entering Year Four of his career, Monahan has gotten his start in Calgary. The sixth player selected in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, the center has appeared in 237 regular season games already and has 159 points his credit. Also, this kid is younger than me, so take that for what it’s worth.

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