This latest NHL season began Wednesday with the Chicago Blackhawks raising their 2015 Stanley Cup championship banner to the United Center rafters, and the New York Rangers watching with what must have been some level of envy.
New York has had multiple deep trips into the playoffs over the last few years, including a trip to the Stanley Cup Final against the Los Angeles Kings. Every attempt to reach the NHL's glorious summit has failed, while many of their key players aren't getting any younger. You'll have to excuse Rangers fans if they seem on edge this season, they've been under a lot of pressure lately.
So, this season, perhaps more than most, is incredibly important for the franchise. As is the prospect of a strong start; the top of the Metro will be crowded with strong teams this year, and any lengthy falter at the start of the season could spell doom by the end of it.
With all of that in mind, the Rangers have to be pleased with their result on Wednesday. Powered by three first period goals and an excellent performance in net by Henrik Lundqvist, New York ensured a big opening win over the defending champions on the road. That kind of opener should do wonders for the confidence of a group that needs to sustain it if they want to finally reach the goals they've aspired to the last four years.
But the Flames and Kings? Hah. Nope. Burn the tapes. Pretend your openers never happened, guys. Try again on Saturday.
Canadiens 3, Maple Leafs 1
Rangers 3, Blackhawks 2
Canucks 5, Flames 1
Sharks 5, Kings 1
3 things we learned
1. Coach's challenges work!
At least, they've passed their initial test. One of the NHL's newest rule changes took center stage early on opening night, and it was only fitting that the offseason's most talked-about coach got to try it out first. Missed or incorrect interference calls on goals became a frustrating part of the game over the last few years, so it's encouraging to see the coach's challenge counteract it so effectively so early into the season.
2. The Sedins and Sharks made statements
Maybe we shouldn't have collectively written the Canucks and Sharks off this season. (How's that for a one-game knee jerk reconsideration?) Joe Pavelski looks like he's going to score another 40 goals this season, and the Sedins helped their teammates carve up the Flames in their own barn.
3. The Flames and Canucks still hate each other.
It took just two seconds for the Pacific (and Canadian) rivals to drop the gloves and go at it on Wednesday. And the chippiness didn't stop there. Vancouver may have played like the better team, but that didn't keep them from engaging the Flames in minor scrums throughout. It's good to see one of the fresher rivalries from last season is still alive and well.
The return of hockey is great and all until you remember Dustin Brown is back again, too. That he couldn't last one period into the season without a questionable hit is just a little bit too fitting.
Stat of the Night
Most goals in last two seasons: 1) Alex Ovechkin 2) Joe Pavelski wait really— Justin Bourne (@jtbourne) October 8, 2015
THE MORE YOU KNOW
Post to Post
- The Hartford Whalers returned from the dead to make us all sad.
- When the Blue Jays lose tonight, blame this guy.
- Finally, Gary Bettman feeds off your boos and basks in your hatred.