As we ponder whether the Calgary Flames can return to pre-pandemic form starting on Saturday, things are already happening elsewhere around the league. Big hits that could lead to the league’s first suspension of the year. NHL rumours around signings in Boston. Record-chasing antics from Alex Ovechkin on the ice and acting duties off it. And a big rematch between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens that featured a great comeback story in a losing cause.
– Our boys at Boston Hockey Now have been busy chasing storylines. Just when you thought the Bruins might be moving toward a new future, they leave the door open on veterans David Krejci and Tuukka Rask. Could this be the next Tampa Bay Lightning-style twist adding important pieces for a playoff run? Whatever the reason, they’re not ready to start the post-Rask and Krejci era just yet.
– Meanwhile, BHN is among those reporting the almost-but-not-quite-imminent inking of a new deal for top defenceman Charlie McAvoy. Bruins President Cam Neely is optimistic, which is more than we can say for Ottawa and Matthew Tkachuk’s brother Brady.
Feel shame, Gabriel Landeskog
– The sharp money might have been on Nazem Kadri to be the first member of the Colorado Avalanche to be suspended, but it’s captain Gabriel Landeskog making poor decisions in their opener against the Chicago Blackhawks.
– It’s a new era for hockey broadcasting with so many new players in the U.S. market, but the new NHL on TNT broadcast had a nice start pitting a couple of cross-sport legends against each other in more ways than one this week. Former NBA star Charles Barkley started by chirping the NHL’s Great One, Wayne Gretzky, on the air and then let the league’s top scorer of all time take shots on him in the studio. That was Pekka Rinne’s gear he was wearing. Hope it was washed.
Favourite lines included “My goaltending coach Panger sucks!” from Barkley and Gretzky refusing to switch spots with Barkley claiming he’s not a defender, then Barkley suggesting “He’s the Charles Barkley of hockey.”
– That Gretzky goal record might be in jeopardy after all. Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin had quite a start to his season last night, passing Marcel Dionne for fifth place on the NHL’s goal-scoring list with a pair in the opener. Washington Hockey Now’s Sammi Silber breaks down the chase nicely.
– When Ovechkin retires, he might have to give acting a serious shot. His comedic timing is pretty good in the new insurance commercial with linemate Nicklas Backstrom. They have some real small-screen chemistry. Guess it is an extension of their on-ice relationship.
Redemption songs for Leafs/Canadiens
– The Toronto Maple Leafs took the first-round playoff rematch with the Montreal Canadiens and our Canada Hockey Now colleague Jon Still broke down the season opener for Montreal Hockey Now.
– It was great to see Jonathan Drouin return with a goal in the opener after leaving the Habs in Calgary before a game against the Flames last year because of anxiety. Somehow, I let him slip and go undrafted in our big fantasy draft this week despite putting him on my list as a favourite to root for this year. Oops.