Busy NHL Opening Night
After a hectic offseason, the wait is finally over for the beginning of the 2018-19 season. It’s been almost four months since the last meaningful hockey game and teams are hungry to get back into the action.
Hockey fans are sure to get their hockey fix tonight with four games on the schedule; including, two debuts from star players John Tavares and Erik Karlsson.
Lock Pick 1: Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Montreal Canadiens
Pick: Toronto Maple Leafs
After signing a 7-year $77 million contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs, John Tavares instantly helped make the Leafs favorites to make it to the cup.
Tavares adds firepower to a Maple Leafs offense that was already explosive. Last season Toronto finished second in goals per game and power play percentage and finished the season with 105 points and a third-place finish in the Atlantic Division.
Tavares’ 84-points in 2017-18 would have been the highest total on the Toronto roster. Headed into the new year, the Leafs have high expectations for the superstar forward.
After a very tough 2017-18 season the Montreal Canadiens will be looking to bounce back and try and be at least competitive this upcoming season.
The Canadiens added multiple young pieces to their roster; including young phenom Jesperi Kotkaniemi who they drafted with the 3rd overall pick in the 2018 NHL draft. Along with Kotkaniemi, the Canadiens were able to add Joel Armia and Max Domi. Both players are not expected ever to be superstars, but they are valued pieces that can help build a winning culture in Montreal down the road.
This season will most likely be another trying one for the Montreal Canadiens, but they will still be an exciting team to watch. They have exciting young players, and with a goalie like Carey Price, they are a threat to win on any night against any team.
Coming into the 2018-19 season, the Maple Leafs have a lot to prove, and they will have the spotlight on them in game one against the Canadiens.
Toronto views themselves as a top-tier team in the league and their roster reflects it as well. Now with the spotlight on them this season they will not be able to drop games to teams like the Montreal Canadiens. The Leafs weapons of Tavares, Matthews, Marner, and Marleau should be too much for Price and company to handle.
I expect the Leafs to be fired up with a lot to prove and they should handle the Canadiens comfortably.
Lock Pick 2: San Jose Sharks vs. Anaheim Ducks
Pick: Anaheim Ducks
Last postseason was about as bad as it could get for the Anaheim Ducks. They were eliminated in four games by the San Jose Sharks and were embarrassed in a 1-8 blowout in game three.
Unlike their Californian counterparts, the Ducks are betting that their roster will be able to rebound on its own in 2018. One of those players that they are hoping will take a big step is phenom Rickard Rakell.
Big Things For Rakell In 2018
Rickard Rakell led the Ducks in scoring last season with 69 points. Rakell boasted career highs in goals and assists, and Anaheim is hoping that those numbers continue to grow.
The Ducks are hoping that Rakell can blossom into a Taylor Hall type player and explode onto the scene this upcoming season. Now Rakell’s line will feature Getzlaf and former University of Denver star Troy Terry. Terry’s playmaking ability could be a significant difference maker for Rakell this season. Last year the addition of Nico Hischier to Taylor Hall’s line made all the difference and Anaheim will be hoping for the same from Terry.
The Sharks made arguably the biggest splash of the 2018 offseason when they acquired Erik Karlsson from the Ottawa Senators.
The Sharks defense was already considered to be one of the best in the league, but now with Karlsson, the Sharks have two top-tier NHL defensive lines and they have a talent advantage over almost all of their matchups.
After last year’s embarrassing defeat, expect the Ducks to come in with added motivation to get some revenge on San Jose.
The Ducks will spoil the Erik Karlsson party in San Jose, but it will be a very close game. This game is likely to be decided by one or two goals and will most likely head into overtime.
The Pacific Division race will be one of the most entertaining topics of the 2018-19 season, and it is a treat to hockey fans to have a matchup right away at the beginning of the season.
Upset Pick: Washington Capitals vs. Boston Bruins
Pick: Boston Bruins
Last season the Washington Capitals went on a miraculous run and came away as Stanley Cup Champions. Tonight they will be hanging the first banner in Capitals history, and it is sure to be another party in D.C. tonight; however, the Boston Bruins are coming in looking to spoil the fun.
Both the Capitals and the Bruins made minimal moves on the roster this offseason and are keeping their cores together for the new year. The most notable move for Washington was losing head coach Barry Trotz, but they believe that they are still just as good with Todd Reirden captaining the ship.
Both teams play very fast and physical, so the matchup between the two is always an entertaining one. Expect the Capitals to have a little bit of a Stanley Cup hangover to start the season, but they will eventually right the ship. Boston is one of the best teams in the entire NHL, and they are going to be spending the whole season trying to prove it.
This game will be a close one, most likely being decided by two goals or less, with the winning team pulling away late. The Bruins will take this matchup with Rask playing very well to open the season.