By: Jonathan Goad
The NHL regular season is underway, and hockey fans, like myself, are stoked. It’s been a long off-season. However, watching the Capitals’ months-long celebration has been entertaining to say the least.
Now that the season has started, here are the stories you should follow.
Vegas Golden Knights 2nd Season
The Golden Knights shocked the world last year when they made it all the way to the Stanley Cup finals. I don’t think anyone expected that when it was announced that Vegas would receive an expansion team. Even after the expansion draft, I’d say most hockey fans didn’t expect much from the Knights. However, they went on win 51 games and amass 109 points in their inaugural season. Then they fell just a few wins short of hoisting the Stanley Cup.
Expectations will be high for the Knights, who added Paul Stastny and Max Pacioretty. Can this team repeat as Western Conference Champions and win the elusive Stanley Cup in only their second season? They’ve got the tools to compete for it, but only time will tell.
John Tavares as a Toronto Maple Leaf
The prized player in this off season’s free agent class has returned home. He got his Maple Leaf career started the right way with a goal in his first game and a win. Tavares is an elite talent in this league, so he will no doubt have a great season. The Maple Leafs should be a great team all year as well. They will score a bunch of goals and be fun to watch all season.
St. Louis Blues Revamped Roster
The Blues missed the playoffs last season by one point. They responded this off-season by adding some much-needed offense. The Note traded for two-way center Ryan O’Reilly and dumped a couple contracts in the process. They also brought in St. Louis native Pat Maroon and also Tyler Bozak. Three young prospects made the team out of camp, so it’ll be interesting to watch how they progress. The offense should be much improved, with four lines able to light the lamp. The biggest question mark will be Jake Allen in net. Can he put together a full year of good goal-tending?
Erik Karlsson in San Jose
A key addition to an already strong team will make the Sharks even more deadly this season. However, the Anaheim Ducks spoiled Karlsson’s debut. San Jose will be a contender come playoff time as deadline acquisition Evander Kane will get a full season with the Sharks. Keep an eye on San Jose this season and especially Erik Karlsson.
Washington Capitals Title Defense
The Capitals won their first Stanley Cup last season, and they let people know. With much of the same roster, can they repeat as champions? Chances are slim as the NHL rarely has repeat champions. The Eastern Conference is loaded as well. But when you have Alex Ovechkin, who really knows? The Capitals may just go on a North American tour as the champs and may not even care about this season. I imagine they’re still partying.
Chicago Blackhawks Return to Glory?
The Blackhawks had a rare, rough season last year. They’ve still got some solid players with Kane and Toews, but the biggest question mark is on the goalie. If Corey Crawford can carry the team, at times, then the Blackhawks may have another run in them. If he can’t, and health is an issue, then Chicago may miss the playoffs for the second straight season. Oh how the mighty have fallen.
There’s plenty of stories to follow in the NHL this season. These are the biggest stories that I’ll be watching all season long. It’s going to be a very exciting year of hockey. I, for one, am thrilled that hockey is back.