NHL 2021-22 Recap Week 1 – Barkley and the Kraken debut, Penguins roll without stars, ESPN plus blows, Kopitar and Bertuzzi shine
What an opening week for the NHL. No Auston Matthews, Nathan MacKinnon, Sidney Crosby, or Evgeni Malkin. The Seattle Kraken launched their season with jerseys everyone loves, and people loved the Vegas ice show even more. Nothing like watching a Kraken burn on ice.
Frequent comebacks, high-scoring games, and overtimes highlighted the first week. Some quick notes:
The Columbus Blue Jackets scored eight goals in their opener against the Arizona Coyotes, and none came from Patrik Laine. Not bad for a team who was 29th in scoring last season. It’s amazing what can be accomplished when you get rid of your crappy coach.
The Tampa Bay Lightning laid an egg against the Pittsburgh Penguins and somewhat laid another one against the Detroit Red Wings. Down 6-3 in the third period, you’d assume it was over. Not so fast. They rallied for three goals in four minutes and then the overtime winner. (More on the game-tying goal below.) The Red Wings wasted a four-goal performance from a returning Tyler Bertuzzi. He played only nine games last season. There’s a chance he’ll have a monster season.
The Buffalo Sabres are playing well, which is weird. Even odder, Craig Anderson is their goalie, and he’s been around for 20 years. I thought he retired.
Things I like
1. TNT is trying to be different and make the intermissions and post-game show more fun. I like Wayne Gretzky interviewing Alex Ovechkin and the segment with Charles Barkley trying to figure out how to wear goalie gear. Barkley is always gold. I can’t imagine that would get casual viewers to want to watch hockey, but it’s something to get people talking. Gretzky doesn’t look like he wants to be there. He’s just there because of who he is. Michael Jordan would never do this because he doesn’t want to and wouldn’t be good at it either. I really hope they don’t try and get Sidney Crosby when he retires. Anyone who watches his post-game interviews knows why. The best players are rarely good at these things. I’m glad ESPN picked up Brian Boucher, the best analyst at NBC. I’m hoping Jeremy Roenick will come back at some point. I won’t spend too much time on this since I rarely watch the nationally televised games over other ones, and I never watch intermissions. The United States will never beat TSN, Sportsnet, or CBC coverage. I’m happy Harnarayan Singh is back.
2. Malkin and Crosby, and even Jake Guentzel being out benefits the Penguins. It forces everyone else to not rely on them and step up. And boy have they. Two wins and 15 goals in three games are hard to beat. But it will set up a problem when they return. I wouldn’t want to mess up what they’ve been doing. And those guys demand playing time and the puck. I hope they don’t insert them until after they start losing, even if they are healthy. All but three players have a point and twelve have two or more.
Things I don’t
1. ESPN plus is utter garbage. NHL TV was a thousand times better. There are no goal or period makers. It’s just one giant three-hour feed. Whenever you scrub the timeline too much, the video feed breaks. It also tends to reset itself if you scrub toward the end. If you hit rewind ten seconds more than twice, it automatically pauses for some reason. The buttons also dance, so it’s hard to hit multiple times. There are no stats either. They couldn’t have made it any worse if they tried. I won’t even get into the awful navigation or the fact that it consistently spams you. But I will say there is no easy way to filter only NHL games, and there are no scores. After I created an account, it asked me if I wanted to sign up for the Disney bundle. I just signed up. If I wanted that, I would have picked it. Plus, wouldn’t it have made more sense to show me that before? The ad was so large I couldn’t see a way to close it or continue to the site. I had to close the window and start over. On top of that, all the feed buttons say get ESPN plus. I already have ESPN plus that’s how I can watch the feeds. Why are you telling me to get something I already have? They have completely taken the fun out of this season. Writing this column will be a chore.
2. Evander Kane is having a rough few months. First, his soon-to-be ex-wife accuses him of throwing games he bet on. Then domestic abuse, which he contends she did to him instead. It sounds like it was a happy marriage. And then he fakes a vaccine card. I’m not even going to comment on that. He was cleared in the gambling investigation, but the other two are ongoing. San Jose hasn’t commented on whether he would be back. Keep in mind he’s still bankrupt, and he’ll probably be suspended for several games. Not a fun time to be him. While his personal issues are more important, he’s a great goal scorer. Who probably could have been even better and may never play again.
Fights of the Week
Special thanks to hockeyfights.com for making this section a little easier to do.
Logan Stanley vs. Jacob Middleton
A long, decent scrap.
Vince Dunn vs. Yakov Trenin
The first fight in Kraken history! And a bit of a mismatch.
Goat of the Week
Alex Nedeljkovic – Detroit Red Wings
Part 9057 of why goalies should never leave their crease. I give you whatever Alex Nedeljkovic was trying to do. I honestly have no idea. His defensemen were already coming back with people on them. This was the tying goal.
Goal of the Week
Jack Hughes – New Jersey Devils
The actual goal wasn’t that impressive, just a simple backhand. It’s Hughes letting everyone react to him first and then taking what’s open that’s great. Then he throws his stick into the crowd for some bonus points. This was the overtime winner.
Stat Line of the Week
10/14/21 Los Angeles 6 vs. Vegas 2
Anze Kopitar is still in the NHL, and he’s leading in scoring mostly from this one game. The Kings got a big win in their opener over the Golden Knights from Kopitar’s five points, two of which came on the powerplay. Kopitar added two more points the next game. Kopitar has figured in seven of the Kings’ eight goals which is wild. He obviously can’t sustain this pace forever but let’s see how long it goes.
76 – Million over eights years for Charlie McAvoy, richest contract in Bruins history
3 – Empty net goals by the Penguins against the Lightning. The most by a team since 1984. (Courtesy of Stathead Hockey)
733 – Goals for Alex Ovechkin, passing Marcel Dionne for fifth all-time
2 – Point scored by Mason McTavish making his Anaheim Ducks debut before turning 19. He joined teammate Jamie Drysdale and some guys named Laine, Steve Yzerman, and Ray Bourque, who scored a goal and an assist in their under 19 debuts. (Courtesy of Stathead Hockey)
17 – Penalty minutes racked up by Marcus Foligno in one play against the Anaheim Ducks
This Week in Hockey History
This might be back next week.
The rankings are based on how the teams are currently playing.
29. NY Islanders