Into the Boards: Recapping Week One in the NHL
Gathered around the big screen with beers in hand, we anxiously awaited the first puck drop of the 2016-17 NHL season. Our favorite pastime is officially back and week one was freakin’ electric.
Missed a couple games? Can’t afford NHL.tv? We got you on all the week one fun you missed while you were at work, playing a terrible gig, feeding your cat, or whatever the hell it is that normal people do instead of watching multiple hockey games at once.
Before we dive in, thank you to MetalSucks and everyone who liked, shared, or commented on our first Into the Boards post. It’s great to have your attention and Scott and I are stoked on this opportunity to talk hockey with all of you. Also a huge shout out and thank you to Mark Valentino Photography and Sean Ageman of Washed Up Media for allowing us to use their amazing photos for our ITB header. You guys rule!
Eastern Conference Headlines
The Kids Are Alright
The biggest story of week one was Auston Matthews’ of the Toronto Maple Leafs’ brilliant opening night performance, as he notched FOUR goals in his first ever NHL game at the barely-out-of-high-school age of 19. AM34 became the first player in the modern era of the NHL to tally four in his first game, leaving his mother in tears in the stands of the Canadian Tire Center in Ottawa with the whole hockey world gawking over his skill.
I was taken aback by the poise and confidence Matthews showed in his first game. He didn’t simplify his game for fear of making mistakes, but instead put his full skill set on display and danced around multiple Senators for a dazzling second goal of the night (among these Senators being two-time Norris trophy winning defender and great-hair-haver Erik Karlsson). Unfortunately for Leafs fans, Matthews’ dominant performance wasn’t enough to cover Toronto’s defensive blunders as the Leafs somehow managed to lose the game 5-4 in overtime. Regardless, with Matthews, Marner, and Nylander in the fold, Toronto are rebuilding the right way and will be a whole lot of fun to watch, win or lose.
Pushing On in Pittsburgh
Penguins fans were forced to break a sweat before the puck even hit the ice when it was announced that captain Sidney Crosby would be sidelined indefinitely with a concussion he sustained during practice. To make matters worse, goaltender Matt Murray suffered a broken hand while playing for Team North America in late September, effectively forcing the team to start the 2016-17 season without the help of two pretty major pieces. Murray shocked the NHL world last spring as the Penguins fought their way to their third Stanley Cup on the strength of his consistent and solid performances, leaving him with a slew of expectations headed into his first full season. Couple this with the loss of Sid the Kid, and I’d be damn near shitting my pants if I were a Pens fan.
Fear not though, for Pittsburgh is 2-1-0 through their first three contests with the likes of Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel picking up the slack left by their injured captain, and while it’s still early, I can’t help but think Pittsburgh will be A-OK. Crosby did come away with the Conn Smythe last season, but Pittsburgh’s Stanley Cup success came largely by committee with the HBK line and Matt Cullen getting just as much attention as the usual suspects, so I have every reason to believe that the defending champs will hold it together while awaiting the return of their biggest gun.
Western Conference Headlines
The Fallen King
In the season opener against San Jose, with 30 seconds left in the first period, all-star goaltender Jonathan Quick suffered a lower body injury while stopping a wraparound shot by Sharks captain Joe Pavelski. Quick was placed on the IR list and after a “non-surgical procedure,” it’s believed that he will be out 3-4 months with no other real information officially released on the injury. Being that Quick is a two-time Stanley Cup champion and one of the best in the biz, this is a devastating loss for the Kings. With veteran forward Marian Gaborik also out with a foot injury, the already uphill battle for the Kings just got a whole lot steeper. Replacing Quick between the pipes will be Jeff Zatkoff who had some success previously in Pittsburgh but was ultimately displaced by rookie goaltender Matt Murray. Fantasy owners, I think he is your best bet for a replacement goalie. His first start was rough, but Zatkoff still has some skills. The Kings will need to lean on Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty to keep pace so when Quick returns he can jump right back in net and push his team deep into the postseason.
You’re my boy Blue(s)!
I’m currently on the road as I type up this article. We’re heading to a gig in the home of the Gateway Arch, Nelly, and notorious pieces of shit that rob bands on a consistent basis… I’m talking about good ol’ St. Louis. And since we’re here, let’s talk about the home team that currently sits on top of the Central Division with a near-perfect 3-0-1 record. The Blues have been strong contenders for the cup in recent years but always seem to fall short when it matters most. Their time is coming though. They are too great of a team to not make it to the final dance. After defeating the Blackhawks, the Wild, and the Rangers this week, the Blues will continue to run down the competition and gain momentum. With sharp shooter Vladimir Tarasenko, deep defensive talent and solid goaltending in starting netminder Jake Allen, the Blues’ future looks bright and promising. I wasn’t sure how the departure of David Backes would affect St. Louis, but it seems they haven’t lost any steam as they roll out to a hot start.
Player of the Week
Vin: My player of the week goes to the mighty Brent Burns of the San Jose Sharks. Big Beard Burns went off this week with great defensive play, while also putting up three goals and five assists, including a game-winner against the LA Kings in their season opener. Burns is monster who would be valued in any franchise. I’m sure he will be a repeat POTW as the season continues.
Scott: My week one golden boy is Patrik Laine of the Winnipeg Jets. The 2016 second overall pick capped off week one with a hat trick, in just his fourth NHL game, to cue a comeback that dug the Jets out of a 4-0 hole against Toronto. Laine’s late third period heroics gave way for a highlight reel OT snipe that sent Auston Matthews and the Leafs packing. This kid’s dazzling abilities will almost definitely make you feel bad about whatever it was that you were doing when you were 18.