We are now a week into October, the first full month of fall. Leaves are changing colors, the weather is turning cooler, and summer’s warmth is beginning to fade. Do you know what that means? It’s time for NHL hockey!
When last we left the National Hockey League, Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins were skating around the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville with the Stanley Cup. The six-game victory over the upstart Nashville Predators was the first repeat since the 1997-98 Detroit Red Wings. Can the boys from Steeltown become the first franchise to three-peat since the legendary New York Islanders of 1980-83 (who were on their way to a four-peat)?
Can Crosby and company bring a third straight Stanley Cup to Pittsburgh?
The truth is that the Penguins came out on the losing end of the summer of 2017. Three blaring subtractions headline the 2017-18 edition of the reigning two-time champs. Gone are Chris Kunitz (signed with Tampa Bay), Nick Bonino (signed with Nashville) and Marc-Andre Fleury (selected by Vegas in the expansion draft). Many believe that Matt Murray has become the heir to Fleury’s goal crease, given his success in the past two playoff seasons. The truth is, in my opinion, that Fleury was the steady hand during the season that enabled the likes of Murray to grab the headlines in the playoffs. If the first two games of this year is any indication, it could be a rough road for Murray. The Pittsburgh netminder allowed eleven goals in the team’s first two games.
Speaking of success in the regular season, but not so much during the playoffs, the Washington Capitals come to mind. The Caps did little to improve themselves over the summer, but could still finish on top of the Metropolitan Division. Can Ovechkin and company get past round 2of the Stanley Cup Playoffs?, That remains to be seen.
Can Steve Stamkos return to form and lead the Lightning back to the Stanley Cup Finals?
After being the kings of the Atlantic Division in 2015-16, both teams from the Sunshine State failed to make the playoffs last year. Can the revamped Tampa Bay Lightning return to the playoffs, and possibly the Finals? A healthy Steve Stamkos and the addition of the aforementioned Chris Kunitz could make for an interesting season on Florida’s west coast. Over in Sunrise, there is a new coach in Bob Boughner, and a new, younger attitude. Gone are Jaromir Jagr (signed with Calgary) and Jussi Jokinen (signed with Edmonton). The core of Aleksander Barkov, Jonathon Huberdeau, Vincent Trocheck, and Aaron Ekblad are expected to take the torch and lead this team.
In the northern part of the Atlantic Division there are many questions too. Will “Le Bleu, Blanc, et Rouge” repeat as champs behind All-World goaltender Carey Price? Will Auston Matthews continue to bring in a new era in Toronto? Were the Ottawa Senators for real last year?
- The Detroit Red Wings will probably miss the playoffs this year, but they usher in a new era this season. The Joe Louis Arena, where the Wings won four Stanley Cups and qualified for 25 consecutive Stanley Cup Playoffs closed its doors following last season. The Red Wings opened their new home, the Little Ceasers Arena with a 4-2 victory over the Minnesota Wild this past Thursday.
The Detroit Red Wings opened the Little Caesars Arena with a 4-2 win over the Minnesota Wild on Thursday Night.
Speaking of newness, I offer my congratulations to the brand new Vegas Golden Knights for beginning their existence with a 2-1 victory in Dallas on Friday night. Good luck to the NHL’s newest franchise! More on the Golden Knights and the rest of the Western Conference on Wednesday when I conclude the NHL preview.
A program note. Due to the Major League Baseball post-season, and the beginning of the hockey and basketball seasons, football will be put on the back burner for now. If anything major happens in the football world as the season progresses I will be addressing it. As for now, I will conclude the NHL Preview with the Western Conference this coming Wednesday. Beginning next Sunday, through the conclusion of the World Series the focus will be on Major League Baseball. Football will return in early November.