What an action-packed opening night in the NHL. Man, was it ever great to have puck back.
A lot of people were commenting about the sheer volume of offense last night – 26 total goals were scored over a mere three games, which is both 80′s-esque, and what the league wants to see. I haven’t looked into the depths of this yet (oh, but I will be), but I always found it easier to score early in the year. I wouldn’t be surprised if goals-per-game declined over the course of your average season, as teams tighten up their defensive systems, teammates get more comfortable reading off each other, and roles become more defined.
If there’s not more raw offense early, there definitely seems for there to be more chances amidst a bunch of loose defensive play.
Anyway, it was fun. Here are your top stories.
* Mikhail Grabovski scored the first opening night hat-trick in Washington Capitals history, and he added an assist for a not-too-shabby four point night. Leafs fans, especially the statistically inclined ones, were adamant that he was misused as a defensive forward when in blue-and-white, and were flabbergasted when the team bought out his contract. He’s getting a chance to prove them right in Washington, and between his stellar pre-season and last night, it seems he could be making the Leafs management look pretty foolish, pretty soon. Especially as John Michael-Liles continues to earn nearly $4 mill to not dress for the club.
* Lars Eller had a great night, which was good to see after the way his season ended last year on a tough Eric Gryba hit. He scored twice and assisted on Brendan Gallagher’s goal for three points.
* Jacob Trouba‘s NHL debut was a smashing success for the Jets. The rookie defenseman assisted on a Michal Frolik goal (Frolik had two), and scored on a heavy slapshot to start his season with a two point showing.
* Last season’s Hart Trophy winner Alex Ovechkin got the ball rolling early, scoring once and adding an apple for two points. I predicted him to have an off season (during the “nonsensical prediction” part of yesterday’s podcast), but I think Oates uses him well and he plays with enough talent that I could be way off on that.
* Brandon Saad had a goal and two assists in Chicago’s win.
* Dustin Byfuglien had three apples.
George Parros had a scary moment
The Leafs/Habs game was about as 80s as it gets between the goals and the fights. Colton Orr and George Parros fought twice, as one would expect, but the second one didn’t go quite as planned.
George Parros threw a bomb, but as he was throwing it, Orr had semi-fallen to the ice. Between Parros’ momentum and Orr’s location, a little jersey tug from the latter was all that was needed to propel Parros’ face to the ice. There’s a 10-second clip below if you can stomach watching it – if you’d like to see the full video with context and follow up, there’s a longer video here.
You can read more takes on Parros from prominent columnists in theScore’s “Reading List.”
Oddly, he was on the other side of this in a fight with Orr a couple years ago, with the latter badly injured by his face hitting the ice.
Weird heros in Toronto
Tyler Bozak stole the puck from Andrei Markov and scored on a breakaway to put the Leafs up 3-2, and Mason Raymond scored on a 2-on-1 after his attempted pass kicked right back to him, and Carey Price had already slid across on the attempted pass. Raymond tucked it in the open cage for his first (real) goal as a Leaf.
Only one goaltender had a save percentage that started with a “9″ last night (James Reimer, .919), as the three Canadian Olympic hopefuls were….less than steller.
Shallower nets, smaller pads making a difference, or small sample size? Or just opening night rust? LET’S DRAW INSTANT CONCLUSIONS CAUSE ANALYZING HOCKEY IS FUN.
I say the smaller pads are having a HUGE effect and someone is going to win the Vezina with a .750 save percentage. That’s my call. For sure.
The Jets winner was niftykins
Eric Tangradi absolutely knew where Michal Frolik was headed (at least ballpark), and threw him this behind the back dish for the Jets game winner:
Sick solo effort
Ales Hemsky is an underrated offensive talent, and is going to get the chance to prove it under Dallas Eakins. My favourite part of his snipe last night is the second stickhandle he makes anticipating a Blake Wheeler desperation stick-swipe from the ice. The shot was pure, but 90% of guys get that puck poked before they get the chance to take the shot.
One for the tenders
If it weren’t for Carey Price the Leafs could have had a few more last night. Here’s a great stop on Dave Bolland from his stomach:
* Martin St. Louis was named captain of the Tampa Bay Lightning. I saw people saying they were surprised that Stamkos didn’t get the nod, but again: it’s not about giving the letter to the best player, or the face of the franchise. If the Lightning believe St. Louis has a few more years in him (I bet at least three), then it makes perfect sense to give it to the veteran guy, who just happens to be a rational, smart man who carries himself like a pro. Great call by the Bolts.
* Montage fan? Here’s how NBC opened the NHL season.
* And finally, this was the best “two minute minor penalty” of the night. The most unbelievable part of this is that after, Smid turns his palms to the sky to say “Wait, what did I do wrong?”
Please note that it’s on Mark Scheifele, whose forte is not standing on his skates. I mean, he got murdered here, but in general, you never know when a shove is going to receive pushback (it almost always does), but for some reason Scheifele seems to lack the capacity to give pushback. Not blaming him – again, he got murdered here – but it’s something to keep an eye out for in the future.