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NHL Opening Weekend in Review - This Is Sports Zone

This weekend was jam packed with a total of 19 games in two days, 13 of which were played on Saturday. As a fan it was great to see the NHL back at it as the teams came out and played fast paced hard hitting hockey. It felt to me as if there wasn’t even a lockout and it was great that the commentators didn’t beat it to death, they just called the games. In a shortened season a good start to the year is very important as it is more of a sprint than a marathon. Here is a recap of the weekend.
Saturday 1/19/30

Pittsburgh Penguins at Philadelphia Flyers
The Penguins put together a solid performance in Philly to walk away with a 3-1 victory, and seem like a more confident team with Sidney Crosby in the lineup to start the year. Even though he went without a point in the first game his presence forces the opposite team to always know where he is on the ice which in turn can open the ice up for his line mates. Tyler Kennedy, James Neal, and Chris Kunitz scored for Pittsburgh while Paul Martin had two assists along with Matt Niskanen, and Evgeni Malkin each adding one. Claude Giroux scored the lone goal for Philly assisted by Brayden Schenn and Scott Hartnell picked up the assists.

Ottawa Senators at Winnipeg Jets
The Jets were able to jump out to an early lead off of a power play goal in the first period from Dustin Byfuglien assisted by Tobias Enstrom, and Andrew Ladd. The Sens were able to battle back however, getting a goal from Milan Michalek with Patrick Wiercioch picking up the lone assist ten minutes later. In the end the Sens were able to outshoot the Jets 41-28. Erik Karlsson ended up leading the way with a goal and two assists for Ottawa. Chris Neil and Kyle Turris also picked up a goal a piece and the Sens end up leaving Winnipeg with a 4-1 Win.

New Jersey Devils at New York Islanders
In a game that ended up yielding only 3 goals total this was very fast paced and back and forth. After a scoreless first period Travis Zajac was able to put the Devils up 1-0 with just under six minutes left in the second period, Ilya Kovalchuk , and Henrik Tallinder picked up the assists on the goal that would turn out to be the only one of the 2nd period. Travis Hamonic was able to score a power play goal to tie the game about seven minutes into the third period with helpers from Michael Grabner, and Kyle Okposo. David Clarkson put in the go ahead goal which ended up being the game winner a little over a minute later assisted by Patrik Elias and Mattias Tedenby getting the assists. For the Devils it is good to see guys like Clarkson and Zajac get going early. Clarkson was tied for 5th in the NHL with 7 game winning goals during the regular season last year and tied for 1st with three in the post season. Zajac missed the first 67 games for the Devils last season and they ended up going 10-5 over the last 15 games when he was in the lineup securing the six seed in the Eastern Conference. With Adam Henrique heading to the IR, and the Devils not being able to bring back Parise, Players like Elias, Kovie, Clarkson, and Zajac all need to produce this season for the Devils.

Chicago Blackhawks at Los Angeles Kings
The Kings finally got to raise their banner and receive their rings in front of a sold out and energetic Staples Center in Los Angeles. The parade like atmosphere was sucked out of the building by the end of the first period when the Blackhawks jumped out to an early lead just over three minutes into the game and kept building from there. The first period saw goals from Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, and Michael Frolik. Jonathan Toews scored early in the second period to make it 4-0. The Kings added a goal from Rob Skuderi late in the second period. A goal from each team in the third ended the game at 5-2. Marian Hossa had two goals and an assist in the first game of the season and Kyle Clifford was involved in both Kings goals tallying two assists. The Blackhawks start out the season with ten of their first twelve games being on the so to pick up this win against the defending Stanley Cup Champions could be the confidence booster they need to get them through the long stretch of road games.

New York Rangers at Boston Bruins
The Lock Out may have hurt the New York Rangers for the beginning of the season as they made the big move of acquiring Rick Nash and it could take some time for their top players to mesh. I expect them to get on track sooner rather than later. The first period was scoreless until Milan Lucic was able to find the back of the net fourteen minutes in. The Bruins jumped out to a two goal lead in the second period when Daniel Paille scored and even strength goal assisted by Gregory Campbell, Brad Richards brought the Rangers within 1 with just over seven minutes to go in the second assisted by Rick Nash and Dan Girardi. Just over 8 minutes into the third Johnny Boychuk got the two goal lead back for the Bruins and they would hang on to win 3-1 in their home opener.

Toronto Maple Leafs at Montreal Canadiens
Nazem Kadri put a goal in on the powerplay for the Leafs five minutes into the first period, Tyler Bozak would add another PP goal eight minutes into the second. Brian Gionta was able to bring Montreal within one goal getting his own PP goal proving how important special teams was in this game. The leafs and young goalie Ben Scrivens were able to hang on to the one goal lead and walk out of Montreal with a 2-1 win.

Washington Capitals at Tampa Bay Lightning
This was a fast paced high scoring hockey game and just what the doctor ordered to start the year for the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Lightning were able to jump out to an early 1-0 lead and the Caps were able to tie it up one minute later less than a minute after that Vinny Lecavalier scored to put the Lightning up 2-1. Joel Ward scored early in the second to tie it up for the capitals. St. Louis than put home a powerplay goal to put the lightning back up one, only to have Wojtek Wolski tie it back up towards the end of the period. St. Louis added his second powerplay goal to put the lightning up 4-3 and they would just extend it from there ending up with a 6-3 victory on their home ice to start the season. Tampa Bay was able to hold Ovechkin to just four shots which he got off in the first period than was held in check the rest of the game.

Carolina Hurricanes at Florida Panthers
The Florida Panthers opened the season looking like a team on a mission to improve from last years first round exit of the playoffs. It started with Jonathan Huberdeau just over three minutes into the first and the Panthers rolled the Carolina Hurricanes to start the season. Alex Kovalev looked very good at 39 years of age picking up a goal and two assists for the Panthers. It was 4-0 after the first period and each team picked up a goal in the chippy second period that saw seven total penalties. The third went scoreless and seemed pretty uneventful as the Panthers ended up winning 5-1.

Detroit Red Wings at St. Louis Blues
The St. Louis Blues exposed just how difficult it is to replace a veteran and future Hall of Fame defenseman like Niklas Lidstrom. They tallied two goals in each period to skate to a 6-0 victory over the Detroit Red Wings. It is impressive to be able to put up 5 goals against Net minder Jimmy Howard and have him pulled but it is more impressive to shut down Detroits high powered offense and hold them to no goals. Jaroslav Halak was credited with the shutout turning away only 14 shots. That to me shows a great all around game offensively and defensively out of the St. Louis Blues. Keep an eye out for rookie winger Vladimir Tarasenko who put up two goals in his rookie debut. Chris Stewart also put up two goals for the blues along with a goal a piece from T.J. Oshie, and Patrik Berglund.

Columbus Blue Jackets at Nashville Predators
Martin Erat started the scoring for Predators less than one minute into the first period with assists going to Sergei Kostitsyn, and Goaltender Pekka Rinne. It took Columbus just over 15 minutes to respond but they did with a Power Play goal from Nick Foligno assisted by Fedor Tyutin, and Vinny Prospal. The Predators took the lead back roughly two minutes with a Power Play goal from Ryan Ellis. Kostitsyn picked up his second assist of the game. The scoring would stop there for the Predators as the Blue Jackets were able to tie it up eight minutes into the second. Tied 2-2 the third period went scoreless as did the five minute overtime. The Blue Jackets would end up taking the close matchup in the shootout that went six rounds. Derick Brassard beat Pekke Rinne to put Columbus up in the shootout and Craig Smith went on to miss for Nashville.

Phoenix Coyotes at Dallas Stars
Phoenix won the Pacific Division last season which ended up producing the Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings, Dallas on the other hand finished 4th in the division and missed the playoffs. A new season means new beginnings for the Dallas Stars as they opened at home against the Coyotes. Jaromir Jagr would give the Stars a late first period one goal lead. Lauri Korpikoski and Radim Vrbata scored in the second to give Phoenix a 2-1 lead only to have Jagr score another late period goal and tie the game at two heading into the third period. Ray Whitney would score thirty seconds into the third to put the Stars up 3-2. Three minutes later Radim Vrbata would score on an unassisted goal to tie it at three. In a game that went back and forth Dallas would re gain the lead with just under seven minutes to go on a goal from Loui Eriksson, and that would be a lead they would not lose. Dallas has to be happy that their aging superstar Jaromir Jagr walked away from game one of the season with four points, two goals and two assists.

Colorado Avalanche at Minnesota Wild
It is only fitting to have a game opening day of the season in what most consider “Hockey USA,” Minnesota. Colorado was able to go into the first intermission with a 1-0 lead, but in the second Dany Heatley and Zach Parise went to work on the powerplay with Heatley tallying 2 Power Play goals both primary assists going to Zach Parise and the secondary assists going to Miku Koivu. Those goals sandwiched one from Mikael Granlund resulting in a 3-1 lead going into the third period in favor of the Minnesota Wild. Colorado’s Cody Mcleod cut the lead in half five minutes into the third period and Pierre-Marc Bouchard put the nail in the coffin making it 4-2 with 1:35 left to play. Minnesota has to be happy to see early chemistry from the likes of Heatley, Parise, and Koivu, which could result in an extremely potent Power Play for the Wild this season.

Anaheim Ducks at Vancouver Canucks
Teemu Selanne lead the way for the Ducks putting up two goals and two assists in their first game of the year in Vancouver. The Ducks ended up winning 7-3 and getting goaltender Cory Schneider pulled early in the second which has to put second thoughts in the minds of the Vancouver management when it comes to trading goaltender Roberto Luongo.

Sunday 1/20/13

Philadelphia Flyers at Buffalo Sabres
The Flyers go into Sunday’s game with the Sabres looking to bounce back from a loss to Pittsburgh on Saturday, and Buffalo is trying to start out the season with a win in their first game. Only one team would be able to complete the task at hand and Thomas Vanek made sure it was the Buffalo Sabres who came out on top putting up five points, two goals and three assists, in a 5-2 win over Philly to move to 1-0 on the Season. Philly has dropped to 0-2 early in the year with a big Divisional game coming up Tuesday against the 1-0 Devils.

San Jose Sharks at Calgary Flames
Calgary went into the second period with a 1-0 lead against the San Jose Sharks on Sunday in Calgary. That’s when Sharks Captain Patrick Marleau lead the team to a three goal period by netting two of his own. The Sharks ended up coming out on top 4-1 moving to 1-0 on the season. Calgary will be looking forward to getting the services of Jiri Hudler back to help their offense, Hudler is currently over seas mourning the death of his Father.

Pittsburgh Penguins at New York Rangers
Both teams started their seasons on Saturday with the Penguins winning their matchup against the Flyers and the Rangers losing to the Bruins. The Rangers were looking to bounce back against the high powered Penguins team to no avail. James Neal put two biscuits in the back of the net, Malkin added three helpers, and Crosby was able to get his first point of the season tallying an assist. Henrik Lundqvist was pulled mid way through the game as he is having the worst start of his career allowing seven goals over the weekend. On a bright note for the Rangers Rick Nash was able to get his first goal as a Ranger. It is always nice to get over that hump early.

Dallas Stars at Minnesota Wild
Josh Harding played solid between the pipes for the Wild turning away 24 shots on his way to a shutout and a 1-0 win for his Minnesota Wild over the Dallas Stars. Zach Parise scored the lone goal for the Wild getting his first as a member of the team from his home state, the assists went to Pierre Marc Bouchard and Dany Heatley. After a spectacular opening day Jaromir Jagr was held to just three shots on goal for Dallas on Sunday.
Edmonton Oilers at Vancouver Canucks
Vancouver scored the first two goals of the game, one in the first, and one in the second. Edmonton answered with two of their own one in the second and one in the third and the Overtime period went scoreless . Edmonton took the shootout to put the Vancouver Canucks record at 0-1-1, and themselves at 1-0.

Chicago Blackhawks at Phoenix Coyotes
This game was possibly the most exciting of the weekend, as there were 10 goals scored total with Dallas coming out on to 6-4. Phoenix never quit they kept battling. At one point they were down 5-2 and were able to make it 5-4 in a short period of time in the third period. Thirty-five seconds later Chicago scored a goal to put them up 6-4 and it effectively put the game out of reach for the Coyotes. The Chicago Blackhawks come into a season where they see themselves playing ten of their first twelve on the road and they start out against the Stanley Cup Champion LA Kings and the Pacific Division Winners PHO Coyotes in their first two on the road. As a coach or player you are happy to come out of the weekend 1-1 you are ecstatic to come out 2-0. Marian Hossa had a great weekend with four goals one assist and looks like he is ready to go this season.
All in all it was a very exciting weekend in the NHL with the lockout seemingly long forgotten by the fans. I hope you enjoyed the breakdown of all the games from opening weekend.

Eric Pfeiffer

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