TCL Top Ten Moments of the Opening Weekend
It's been an action-packed opening few days in the NHL, and all the games have definitely left fans with a lot to talk about heading in week 2 (or, at least, week 1 1/2). Thanks to Columbus Day in the US and Thanksgiving in Canada, the first weekend of NHL action was extended into Monday, with all day action in the league from 1PM on Long Island to past midnight on the Eastern seaboard in Vancouver.
And through the first five days of NHL action, we've had plenty of surprises. From "inappropriate gestures to vicious blindside hits to surprise wins and surprise losses, and even a Gordie Howe Hat Trick, it seems like opening week in the NHL has had it all.
That being said, I thought it would be fun to run through the top ten moments of the first few days of NHL action:
10. The kids shine as Canes take both games in Helsinki versus Wild.
Not many people were giving much credit to the Carolina Hurricanes this season. After a pretty abysmal year in 2009-10, the Canes really didn't do much to improve their situation over the summer, instead opting to go with the kids and give a younger line-up a shot, much like they're doing in Edmonton with the Oilers. The Canes took the ice on Thursday and Friday in Helsinki against the Minnesota Wild. And while the Wild aren't exactly cup contenders either, the Hurricanes definitely turned a few heads around the league, taking both games (4-3 on Thursday and 2-1 in a shootout on Friday) against the Wild and giving themselves an early lead against the rest of the East. The kids shined in both games, with C Brandon Sutter (2 goals), D Jamie McBain (1 assist, +1) and C Jeff Skinner (1 assist, +1) leading the way for the Canes, along with veteran Jussi Jokinen (1G, 2A) and goalie Cam Ward (1.92GAA, .944SVP). Where the Canes take it from here is anyone's guess, but you can tell that the kids are playing with both confidence and purpose.
9. Derek Stepan scores hat trick in NHL debut for Rangers
Only four players in NHL history have recorded a hat trick in their NHL debuts, and Derek Stepan, center with the New York Rangers, is now one of them. Stepan, a 20-year-old 2nd round draft pick from Minnesota went into this season with little to no hype, and while he could very well drop off significantly from here, his name will forever live in history for what he accomplished in his first game. And, oh ya, did I mention he scored 3 goals against Ryan Miller? Whether Stepan is the real deal remains to be seen. He could end up like the other three he shares the title with - lost in NHL history - or he could pan out. But this particular occurrence is definitely something special.
8. Henrik Sedin named captain of the Vancouver Canucks in 40th year celebration
There was some controversy surrounding the decision to remove the captaincy from goaltender Roberto Luongo - or frankly, to give him the C in the first place - but on Saturday night, the Vancouver Canucks ended all speculation on the Canucks' captaincy by giving last year's Art Ross winner, Henrik Sedin, the captaincy in a classy ceremony celebrating the Canucks' 40th anniversary. As for Luongo, he's responded with an 1-0-1 record, a .96GAA and a .973SVP. I guess the switch has worked in their favor. Whether Henrik was the right choice is a matter for Canucks fans, but he definitely isn't a bad one, and he's definitely a better choice than Lungo.
7. Boston Bruins sign Chara and Bergeron to contract extensions
Long term contracts have been the talk of the league over the last few months, and last week, the Boston Bruins ensured that people would continue to talk about contracts for at least the next little while, signing two of their top players to major contract extensions. First, the Bruins extended top center Patrice Bergeron to a 3-year, $15million contract, nearly a bargain for a player of Bergeron's caliber, considering his current $4.75million salary. They continued on their spending spree a few days later, signing number one defenseman Zdeno Chara to a 7 year, $45.5 million contract with a No-Trade Clause. The deal averages to $6.916 million a year, over $500,000 less than Chara's previous contract. The deal is significant because it has been affected by the "Ilya Kovalchuk clause", as the final year of the contract, where Chara will be 41 and he will make only $4 million, will not help reduce Chara's cap hit. Still, the Bruins will actually save some money in what could be the final contract of Chara's career, and that's relatively impressive.
6. Steve McIntyre knocks out Raitis Ivanans
In one of the first fights of the season on Friday night, it seemed as if the game between the Calgary Flames and the Edmonton Oilers turned into an MMA event, as heavyweights Steve McIntyre and Raitis Ivanans got into a scrap, and Ivanans was left knocked out on the ice. Naturally, no one wants to see a player knocked out or hurt from what's really a pointless occurrence in a hockey game, but it will definitely live on as a memorable fight and it's likely to spark further debates on the relevance of fighting in the NHL.
5. Devils ice only 15 skaters against Penguins, fall to 0-3
If you follow me on twitter, you know that I'm not too fond of the situation that's transpiring in Newark at the moment. After signing Ilya Kovalchuk to a senseless deal, the New Jersey Devils are definitely feeling the consequences. While Kovalchuk has been earning his contract, playing big minutes, and good 2-way hockey, the rest of the team is definitely suffering in order to accommodate his ridiculous contract. Starting the season with only the bare minimum 20 players on the roster, the Devils were forced by their own stupidity to drop that number to 17 heading into yesterday's game, icing only 3 forward lines. While in that particular game, which they lost, it could be argued that the missing forwards didn't really affect the outcome, what the Devils are doing is in direct violation of the CBA, yet the NHL has decided to turn a blind eye to their BS. I plan on blogging in full on this subject in the near future, but rest assured, this is definitely one of the highlights of the opening week in the NHL, albeit a negative highlight. Teams should not be allowed to ice less than the minimum required amount of players simply because of bad cap management.
4. James Wisniewski makes “obscene” gesture towards Sean Avery
I have to admit that when I saw James Wisniewski make his "gesture" towards the league's bad boy, Sean Avery, I couldn't help but laugh out loud. You know that what Wisniewski was implying with his gesture was something that Avery probably gets called every day of his life, and in every game. And we also know that if Wisniewski has simply called Avery what he was gesturing, instead of acting it out, there would be no controversy. But on a national broadcast that was probably seen by a lot of kids, it's an issue. And with the precedent set by Keith Ballard Undertaker-like "throat slash" in the pre-season, for which Ballard was suspended 1 game, you know that the league has to do something about this. Wisniewski will probably get just that, a one-game suspension, as a necessary PR move. But we all know that there wasn't really anything wrong with what he did. It happens between players all the time (and that isn't code for anything). In fact, it was pretty hilarious. You can view the incident here, but be warned some may consider it Not-Suitable-For-Work.
3. Ondrej Pavelec collapses 2 minutes into first game.
Obviously not a positive moment, but a memorable moment of the first few days of NHL action was Ondrej Pavelec's sudden collapse in only the first minutes of the Atlanta Thrashers opening game against the Capitals. While the play way on the other side of the ice, Pavelec simply collapsed to the ground, remaining unconscious for nearly 15 minutes. He was taken off the ice on a stretcher and spent a couple of days in hospital. Pavelec is said to be fine now, and the cause of his fall was said to be a fainting spell, what's described to be the most common cause of fainting. Pavelec received a concussion from when his head hit the ice on the fall, and he will have to undergo more tests, but he will likely and thankfully be ready to play soon.
2. Jordan Eberle scores Goal of the Year Candidate in first NHL game.
Edmonton Oilers forward Jordan Eberle already had a reputation for being exciting and flashy heading into his first season in the NHL, but on Thursday night, he solidified that reputation by scoring a highlight reel goal in the first game of his NHL career. The goal was shorthanded, and came only minutes into his NHL career. It really can't be described in words, so here's the video for your viewing pleasure:
1. Pavel Datsyuk gets a Gordie Howe Hat Trick.
I may get some flak for this, but Jordan Eberle's goal wasn't the most memorable moment of the weekend, as far as I'm concerned. Eberle will have plenty more beautiful goals in his NHL career, some probably even better than the one he scored Thursday. But another thing that we may never see again in the NHL is what we saw on Friday night in Detroit, when Pavel Datsyuk scored a goal (no surprise there), added an assist (really, George? A goal and an assist?) and capped it all with a fight in the third period (wait, what?).
That's right. The man defending his four year streak as the recipient of the Lady Byng award for most gentlemanly player in the NHL took himself out of contention for the award in the very first game of the season, defending himself against Corey Perry's fists. And guess what? From my perspective, the kind Russian actually won the fight against the near-heavyweight Perry!
The play is known to us hardcores as the "Gordie Howe Hat Trick" and will live on as one of the most memorable moments of the 2010-11 season, and wins the competition for number one moment of the opening weekend.
What are your top 10 (or 5, or 3) moments of the past few days? Post them in the comments below!