NHL Weekly Preview: Week of Oct. 2
With the 2019-2020 NHL season getting underway on Wednesday, Jacob Cheris, Jordan Hession and Grant Commerer analyze the three biggest matchups of the night.
Washington Capitals vs. St. Louis Blues
It’s October, and that means a brand new hockey season is upon us. The big storyline tonight is the St. Louis Blues raising their Stanley Cup banner against the previous champion, the Washington Capitals. While St. Louis will be raising its banner, Washington will play without the services from center Evgeny Kuznetsov, who was suspended three games because of a failed drug test. Though the Capitals will be without Kuznetsov, their center depth is still strong. Washington added some depth pieces after much of the 2018 Stanley Cup-winning roster left. Forwards Richard Panik, Garnet Hathaway and Brendan Leipsic signed with Washington through free agency, and defensemen Radko Gudas was acquired in a trade with the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for Matt Niskanen.
After being dead last in the NHL with a record of 15-18-4, the St. Louis Blues rebounded in incredible fashion to end a 52-year Stanley Cup drought. Rookie goaltender Jordan Binnington was phenomenal, becoming the first rookie goalie ever to win 16 playoff games. This earned him a two-year, $8.8 million contract. Former interim head coach Craig Berube signed a three-year deal, losing the “interim” title. The biggest addition was defenseman Justin Faulk, who was traded by Carolina in exchange for Joel Edumundson. The Blues later signed Faulk to a massive seven-year contract. Other than that, St. Louis’s core remains fully intact and will be aiming for the repeat in 2020.
San Jose Sharks vs. Vegas Golden Knights
The Sharks and Golden Knights face off in the regular season for the first time since last year’s controversial cross-check on Joe Pavelski elevated the Sharks to an overtime winner in Game 7 in the first round of the NHL playoffs. However, the animosity between the two teams carried into the last preseason game Sunday. In the third period, Golden Knights defenseman Deryk Engelland cross-checked Sharks left wing Evander Kane. In retaliation, Kane slashed Engelland, partially striking linesman Kiel Murchison. As Murchison attempted to separate the two players, Kane shoved Murchison away, resulting in a game misconduct for abuse of an official. The Department of Player Safety suspended Evander Kane for three games and fined him over $100,000.
Both the Sharks and Golden Knights have decisions to make regarding their rosters for opening night. With the departure of Justin Braun to Philadelphia, the Sharks signed Tim Heed was a one-year contract in order to fill the sixth defenseman spot. San Jose also added more depth to its blueline by signing Dalton Prout to a one-year contract. It’s yet to be seen if Prout will make the opening night roster or if 49th overall pick in the 2017 draft Mario Ferraro will edge out Prout for a spot on the opening roster. Veteran Jonny Brodzinski and German prospect Lean Bergmann could also fill out the bottom six.
The Vegas Golden Knights have a few tough decisions with their opening night roster. Forwards Alex Touch and Cody Eakin might start the season on the IR. Both players would be placed on the waiver exempt, preventing them from being exposed to other teams. Eakin’s probability for Wednesday opens an opportunity for top prospect Cody Glass or 22-year-old forward Nicolas Roy to crack the opening line up. The blue line remains a question for the Golden Knights, as two rookie defensemen battle for one of the seven or eight defenseman spots. Either Jimmy Schuldt or top prospect Nicolas Hauge will crack the roster. Hauge starred in last season’s AHL playoffs by scoring four goals and tallied 32 points in the regular season as well, both league-leading marks for all defensemen. Hauge scored his first NHL goal on the power play last Sunday, tacking on an assist in the win over the Sharks.
No matter who’s on the ice for either team, fireworks are sure to erupt in this new rivalry when the puck drops at 10 p.m. on Wednesday night.
Ottawa Senators vs. Toronto Maple Leafs
A division clash between two Canadian teams on opening night could be overshadowed by the Caps-Blues game, but it’s worth keeping an eye on this one.
Ottawa is coming off a very disappointing season but has a lot of upside to look forward to. The Senators finished last in the league and went into full-on rebuild mode after they traded away star defenseman Erik Karlsson before the new season began. Matt Duchene, Mark Stone and others were shipped off at the trade deadline. Now the Senators are looking to build around their new star defenseman Thomas Chabot. Ottawa brought in first-year head coach D.J. Smith, who was an assistant to the Maple Leafs last season. The team is hoping that Smith will help push them in the right direction.
After last year’s disappointing first-round playoff exit, the Maple Leafs are looking to advance to the second round for the first time since 2004. General manager Kyle Dubas said that he would like to see the team “get better at dealing with adversity.” Ironically, star center Auston Matthews was charged with disorderly conduct and disruptive behavior from an alleged incident back in May. The Maple Leafs will need less of that behavior going forward to live up to Dubas’s goals. On the plus side, John Taveras found chemistry with Mitch Marner last season, and in turn, had career highs in goals and points and is looking to build on last year’s success.
Jacob Cheris is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Grant Commerer is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.
Jordan Hession is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.