It's been 113 days since the Boston Bruins skated off the ice at Rogers Arena in Vancouver with the Stanley Cup, and on Thursday night, they'll officially celebrate that Cup 2,504 miles away at TD Garden. It'll be televised live on Versus in front of a national audience, but for the most part, people won't be tuning in to see a piece of fabric lifted to the rafters.
They'll be tuning in to watch hockey. Real, live NHL regular season hockey. And despite there only being three games on the docket this first night of the season, there's a ton of excitement and a ton of things to watch for as we prepare for the 95th season of NHL hockey. Here are five of those things to keep your eye on tonight.
1. THE BANNER RAISING
Alright, we'd be remiss without including that celebration on the list. While Boston is the most spoiled sports city in recent memory, Bruins fans had gone without 39 years without a Stanley Cup. Coupled with the expectations of an entire city on their backs (thanks Red Sox) to win another Cup this year, the raucous pre-game ceremony is going to be the perfect lead in to the first nationally televised game of the season.
Of course, it also helps that the hated Philadelphia Flyers are in town, too. Should be a pretty ridiculous atmosphere at the Gahden tonight.
2. WELCOME BACK, JAROMIR JAGR
Speaking of those Flyers, Jaromir Jagr is a member of them. And that's just absolutely bizarre. He look fantastic in the preseason with his new club, but it all starts to matter tonight in Boston. It'll be fun to see how he's adjusted to regular season pace after three seasons abroad.
Just to make it more interesting, Jagr has an unbelievable 30 points in season openers throughout his NHL career, and if he notches one point in Thursday's game, he'll pass Bruins legend Ray Bourque for the most opening night points all time. His next point will also be his 1,600th in the NHL.
3. EVGENI MALKIN'S RETURN FROM INJURY
Everybody in Pittsburgh still has Sidney Crosby on their minds, and while he'll be in Vancouver tonight for the Penguins opening night matchup with the Canucks, he'll be watching from high atop the Rogers Arena ice. On the ice will be Evgeni Malkin, who hasn't played a real game since February after suffering a tough knee injury, and it'll be good to see him back in the lineup.
With Crosby still out, how does Malkin step up for the Pens on Thursday night and throughout the beginning of the regular season?
4. WHO GETS SUSPENDED?
Maybe it's a bit pessimistic, but in the three games on the schedule tonight, we'd bet money that one player does something stupid to get themselves in trouble with Brendan Shanahan. He had more than his fair share of cases to deal with in his first NHL preseason as league disciplinarian, and there's no reason to think that trend won't continue into the regular season.
Sure, preseason rosters are filled with guys who are battling for roster spots, and thus they can get a little over-zealous with the hits. But that's not the only reason there were so many suspensions in the preseason, and it's only a matter of time before we see one in the regular season. Will it come tonight?
5. NUMBERS UP TOP
This is weird, but starting tonight, players will be wearing numbers on the top of their helmet near the front in some attempt to help broadcasters. Because, you know, they've clearly had problems spotting players on the ice in the past. We've yet to see a picture of how these numbers look on the helmets, but I imagine it's kind of like when you fly over a building and for some reason they have the name of the building on top. Weird.
Morning Skate runs each weekday.