First off, on my last blog, I lied. The Phoenix Coyotes are not just ready yet for a playoff run. After plenty of thought, I made my decisions. Before I go ranting on about how the season starts, let me publish here and now the season predictions I have going on:
2) New York Rangers
6) Tampa Bay
7) New Jersey
12) New York Islanders
1) San Jose
10) St. Louis
11) Los Angeles
All right, now that I got that out in the public light, lets now start talking about how opposite those standings look compared to results of what we saw in the opening nights of the 07-08 season...WOW.
Ok, my question to everyone is, "Who the hell are the Columbus Blue Jackets?"
The point and case of this is the job they pulled over the defending Stanley Cup Champion Ducks last night. Where did that performance come from? Is Ilya B. not the Ducks' real go-to goalie? Rick Nash has come alive folks! Two goals, two assists, on the fours goals for the Jackets? This guy is on the wrong team, but let me tell you what the secret is to the success of the team in that game; Federov with Nash and Vyborny. Why didn't this line come together last year? Honestly it must have taken Hitchcock all summer to dream up a fearful threesome like this. The numbers don't exaggerate anything in this case. Just the way the puck was moving tape to tape, the formulation of positioning and chemistry between the three, it all just left me speechless to say the least. Columbus (and possibly Chicago) can be the black horses in the NHL that will rise up and surprise everyone. Pascal Leclare gets a shut-out too? The NHL goes through a lock-out, the Sabres make the playoffs after a dead spell. The NHL switches jersey technology, and the Columbus Blue Jackets may use it to their advantage in some mysterious way. Though it has only been one game in for the Jackets, if this keeps up and Chicago prevails, then this Central division may prove to be much more than just Nashville and Detroit's battle-field.
Since I'm batting at the topic of the Chicago Blackhawks, I did get a chance to see the Hawks battle the Wild on Thursday night on Center Ice online. First off, my condolences go out to the Wirtz family for their loss of Bill, a powerful figure in Chicago Blackhawks history. He died after his long bout with cancer which is so sad considering his impact on all those who came to know him at some point during his life. He was 77 years old.
Moving on into the game that took place on Thursday, the Minnesota Wild played host to the Blackhawks in what I would call a surprise come around for the Hawks. The first game for Patrick Kane turned out to be quite the exciting one. Mr. Kane, straight from being the number one pick in this past June draft, looked like a natural on the ice. Shock was the word that came to mind. His small stature made him look vulnerable, but that was the deception that worked to his advantage. The passing, the speed, the quick reads, all around this kid is proving to be more than what meets the eye. I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw the final score though. 1-0 Minnesota wins. 4:47 into the second period, the only goal scored by Bouchard at even strength was the only tally on the night. Khabibulin and Nik Backstrom were stellar on both ends, and Backstrom proved that last year was not just a one shot deal. This year he looks to repeat his amazing performance in between the pipes for the Wild, and he proved he can by spoiling Kane's debut. Kane saw just under 17 minutes of ice time. That's a lot of time to invest in this new kid, especially in his first game. It should be interesting to see what he can do in the games to come this season, and overall the Blackhawks look healthy and if they can stay that way, they will become a force to come to grips with in the Central.
Pittsburgh fell hard to the silent Hurricanes. Unbelieveable as it may sound, the Canes look like they just might be as resilient as they were in the years of Cup contention. I'm expecting them to miss the playoffs, but if this holds true from my predictions, then they will miss by not very much at all. They could nip their way into the 8th spot by the end when all is said and done, but my initial impression is that they are much better than they were last year after the Cup hangover. To watch this team topple a force like the Pittsburgh Penguins in a 4-1 victory that almost could have been a 4-0 shutout if it wasn't for Mark Recchi's goal with under 3:30 left in the game, I was shocked to say the least. Eric Staal's two goals in the first period set the tone immediately for the team and goes to show that there's a little fire that may grow througout the season under Peter Laviolette's rebounding squad. Crosby needs to step up his game and lead this young team into the next 81 games with the attitude that this is their year. The early exit from last year's playoffs should be enough to inspire this team considering their amazing bounce from the bottom of the standings the year before to their incredible position in the season's finish in the 06-07 season. They'll need to win tonight's game against the Ducks to get that ball rolling. The Ducks, I'm sure, are still reeling from their unbelieveable loss to the Jackets, and they are also looking to get back on the right track considering their missing out of some offense from the subtraction of Penner and Selanne.
Buffalo looked to set an early tone like they did last year against the team they bounced in five games in the first round of the 06-07 playoffs, but the tables turned thanks to some new Islanders. It was more or less the Mike Comrie show as he tallied for two goals and two assists on the night as the the Islanders won an exciting bout with the Sabres. A couple breakaways for both teams, but the goaltending didn't look to shabby at all. The defense is much to blame in this high scoring contest. Some risky decisions by Lydman didn't prove helpful, especially when one turn of events resulted in a Comrie breakaway goal. I'm sure Lindy Ruff wasn't too happy with the defense, but Miller did make some spectacular saves to keep the game under some control. DiPietro on the other end of the ice was making just as many amazing saves, but the four goals he allowed in the first and second period don't really do him any justice. The six goal first period splitting three aside made this game project a feeling that the final outcome would likely be an 10-9 finish, but the powerplays for the Islanders, especially a 5 on 3, gave NY a big push ahead in taking this one. The special teams really did spotlight this contest, and both teams will have to work out the kinks going into NY this evening as both teams meet again at the Nassau Colliseum on the island.
Another upset came in the form of the Atlanta Thrashers taking a beating from Southeastern division rival Washington. This one had a similar feeling of development like the Islanders game because it was the newcomers that made the spotlight. Goal tallies from Michael Nylander and Viktor Kozlov proved to strike it rich for the sharp looking Washington Capitals in this 3-1 victory. The surprise comes as I begin to rethink where I placed the Thrashers to finish consider they start the season without many players that they had on the roster from last year. DeVries, Mellanby, and Tkachuk are all no longer Thrashers, but we'll have to see where things go for this defending Southeastern division champion team.
I'm going to end it here and probably add on many more things throughout the day, or maybe even wait until after tonight's games to interject more into the crazy mess that has started out this fresh and exciting season. We'll talk more soon!
The Podcast will be back in a matter of days or sooner, so don't fear. Keep it here, as the season gets rolling.