NHL Schedule Released; 10 Games We’re Already Looking Forward To
One of the (many, many) awesome things about hockey is that the offseason is pretty short. This week has been, and is, an exciting week for the National Hockey League, as the league hosts its annual draft this weekend, mere days after the schedule for the 2016-17 season comes out. Now that we have dates and times ready for the games, here are 10 we can't wait to see the puck drop for....
Blues @ Blackhawks (10/12)
Chicago's reign over the National Hockey League was interrupted last season by an unlikely source, a Blues team known for their chokes in the playoffs. St. Louis got past the Blackhawks in seven games, holding off an angry Chicago comeback. Now, in head coach Ken Hitchcock's final year, the Blues are looking to take the next step in their quest for total redemption. The Blackhawks will try to avenge the unfamiliar and uncomfortable feeling of losing in the first round of the playoffs. These two teams have waited four months to face off with one another...sparks will fly on opening night. The two teams will also face off at Busch Stadium in St. Louis as part of the 2017 NHL Winter Classic on January 2.
Kings @ Sharks (10/12)
Up until last year, the Kings were like Roy "Smile You Son of A-" Scheider to the Sharks, constantly topping them in big games, with the most embarrassing defeat coming in the 2014 playoffs, where the Sharks coughed up a 3-0 series lead in the teams' first round series, the Kings' comeback leading to their second Stanley Cup title in three years. Now, for the first time in awhile, the Sharks have the upper hand in the rivalry, thoroughly dispatching of the Kings easily in five games en route to their first ever Stanley Cup final appearance. Driving salt into the wounds was the fact that the Kings were defeated by an old ally in Martin Jones, who was Jonathan Quick's backup during the 2014 Cup run. With California hockey supremacy up for grabs, will the waters stay bloody or will the Kings retake the throne?
Capitals @ Penguins (10/13)
Last season's Washington Capitals were a lot like last season's Golden State Warriors. They had the best record in their sports, led by a fiery superstar who was talked about all season in Alex Ovechkin, along with a colorful cast of supporting characters. Much like Golden State, however, the Caps' season did not end in a title, and they didn't even have the dignity to lose the championship round, though they did fall to the team with the polarizing best player in the game that eventually won the title, much like Golden State, as the Caps fell in six games to Sidney Crosby and the Penguins. Now, the Penguins will raise their 4th championship banner with Allie O and Co. in the building. Will it be just the kickstart the Caps need to finally advance past the second round of the playoffs?
Islanders @ Rangers (10/13)
Despite countless jokes and memes about their home situation at Barclays Center, their first year in the Brooklyn arena, the Islanders not only captured their first playoff series win since 1993, but also swept a season series from their NYC counterparts, the Rangers. With the Rangers hungry for revenge, and desperate for another playoff run with Henrik Lundqvist, their first order of business must be to take back the city from a young budding Islanders team that's looking to build on two straight playoff seasons.
Panthers @ Lightning (10/18)
Who would've thought that a potential new hockey rivalry could brew in Florida of all places? The Cats and Bolts battled all last year for the Atlantic Division title, with the Panthers jusssssst edging out the Lightning for the honors, earning their first division banners since 2012. However, when the playoffs rolled around, the Lightning survived the Atlantic portion of the bracket once again, advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals for the second year in a row, while the Panthers dropped out in the 1st round, failing to pick up their first playoff series win since their run to the Stanley Cup Final in 1996. This intrastate rivalry could again be big in playoff seeding, and if the Panthers generate some sort of consistency, it could become the new hot rivalry in the league.
Canadiens @ Bruins (10/22)
Speaking of rivalries, not too long ago this one was must-see television, and was even selected to be the Winter Classic matchup last year. However, when all was said and done, both teams endured disappointing seasons, with each on the wrong side of the playoff picture after 82 games. Both coaches, Michel Therrien and Claude Julien, beloved by their players, are on the hot seat after the unacceptable non-playoff years, particularly Julien, whose B's have been jettisoned from the playoffs before they actually begin twice in a row now. Perhaps its those fine folks from Montreal that can kickstart Boston's season.
Lightning @ Blues (12/1)
A de facto third place game from last year, both teams have similar styles of play...fast, relatively young wingers, stout defense, strong goaltenders. It could've made for a very exciting Stanley Cup Final last year, and the two times they face each other this season (they'll also play December 22 in Tampa Bay) will give us a very interesting look at what might've been.
Red Wings @ Maple Leafs (1/1)
The two Original 6 teams meet not for the Winter Classic on New Year's Day, but for the Centennial Classic, celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Leafs franchise. Having said that, the game will be held outdoors at BMO Field, full time home of Toronto FC soccer. The two teams have previously met outdoors to a massive success, in the 2014 Winter Classic, held at The Big House in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in which Toronto won in a 3-2 shootout victory. Current Leafs coach Mike Babcock was on the losing side of things, so some of his former players leftover in Detroit will look to make him feel the same.
Wild @ Ducks (1/8)
Bruce Boudreau survived Anaheim's 1-7-2 start to lead them to the Pacific Division title...where the Ducks were promptly defeated by a wild card Nashville team. Two days afterward, Boudreau was fired by the Ducks, but was quickly handed the reigns to another eliminated 2016 team, Minnesota. Despite Boudreau's failure to get the Ducks to the Cup round, many felt dumping him was not the right decision. Meanwhile, the Wild, who thought they were true contenders after bringing in Zack Parise and Ryan Suter, haven't gotten out of the 2nd round. Boudreau, who can finally harness Minnesota's great powers, has a chance to prove himself on this date in Anaheim, who brought in former head honcho Randy Carlyle back.
Flyers @ Penguins (2/17)
Despite making a furious rally into the playoffs, the Flyers, Cup-less since 1975, had to be seething in fury watching the Penguins hoist their fourth Stanley Cup this summer. One of the NHL's most brutal rivalries, the Flyers will have all summer to spend getting infuriated by the constant replays of the Cup Finals, something Pens fans are all too happy to rub in. Now, for the first time, the Pennsylvanian rivalry will go outdoors, as Heinz Field becomes a hockey rink to host one of the toughest rivalries in hockey. Don't dress too warmly for this one, as there's going to be a lot of fire down on the ice.
Which games are you most looking forward to? Sound off in the comments!
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