By: AARIF MOHIE EL-DEEN, STAFF REPORTER
Is this really happening? The National Hockey League actually kicked off their 2012-13 season? I don’t think anyone thought it would actually happened, but it has. The season is officially upon us folks.
Opening night gave fans around the globe twelve hours of nonstop coverage starting with three great matchups at 3:00 p.m. and finishing up with the second of a double-header of Hockey Night in Canada on CBC.
Fans were treated to upsets, coming out parties for some teams and rookies, as well as a bit of a blast from the past regarding two of the league’s oldest and best players to ever lace them up in the NHL.
With Claude Giroux officially named captain, the Flyers hosted their rival, the Pittsburgh Penguins to kick off the season. While Crosby was held off the score sheet for the Pens, Pittsburgh still managed to skate away with a 3-1 victory.
Meanwhile, the reigning Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings, who received their Stanley Cup rings and raised their banner to kick off the new season, hosted the Chicago Blackhawks.
Even though the team was given an extra bit of rest due to the lockout, the godforsaken “Stanley Cup hangover” still got the best of them as former Red Wing Marian Hossa led the way for the Blackhawks as they ousted the Kings 5-2.
Those two games started what was to be an interesting night in the NHL. Down in Florida, the Panthers demolished the Staal brothers and the rest of the Hurricanes led by rookie Jonathan Huberdeau who was lined up with veteran Alexei Kovalev and young injury-riddled forward Peter Mueller.
Huberdeau wasn’t the only rookie to have a great night. Vladimir Tarasenko sent Wings defenseman Kyle Quincey home with nightmares after he undressed the veteran defenseman to score his second goal of the night in an eventual 6-0 blowout in St. Louis.
Undrafted small forward Cory Conacher in Tampa Bay also recorded his first goal and assist as the Tampa Bay Lighting doubled up Ovechkin and the Capitals 6-3.
The magic didn’t stop there. In Anaheim, the Ducks ageless wonder Teemu Selanne scored twice and added two assists in a 7-3 shellacking of the Vancouver Canucks.
The 42 year-old veteran was matched goal-for-goal and point-for-point by Dallas Stars forward Jaromir Jagr. The man with the mullet recorded a point on all four Stars goals as they skated away with a 4-3 victory over the Phoenix Coyotes. Selanne and Jagr both lead the league in points after opening night at a combined age of 82.
The Xcel Energy Center in Minnesota was rocking. The new-look Wild who landed both Ryan Suter and Zach Parise over the summer were excited to see how their squad would play out against the young Avalanche led by the youngest captain in NHL history, Gabriel Landeskog.
While Wild forward Dany Heatley was the one scoring, Parise pitched in with two assists as the Wild won their eleventh consecutive home opener 4-2 against the Avs. Finnish rookie Mikael Granlund also scored the first goal of his career for the Avalanche.
In an interesting turn of events that I’m sure nobody thought would happen, Rick Nash and the New York Rangers fell to the Boston Bruins 3-1. That’s not the interesting part. The shocker came when the Nash-less Blue Jackets upset Pekka Rinne and the Predators in the shootout. Yes, the Blue Jackets won their game, and Rick Nash lost his.
Down in Montreal, the post-Gomez era began for the Habs. They fell to their rival, the Toronto Maple Leafs by a score of 2-1 with youngster Nazem Kadri scoring the opening goal for the blue and white.
To round out the night, the Devils, without Parise beat the lowly Islanders 2-1, and the surprise of the year in 2012 Ottawa Senators dismantled the Winnipeg Jets 4-1 at the MTS Centre.
Erik Karlsson, who won the Norris Trophy last season continued where he left off scoring a goal and adding two assists for the Sens.
The NHL had no shortage of surprises on Saturday. Teams that should’ve won didn’t, and many unsung heroes emerged for numerous clubs. Don Cherry was rocking a typical Don Cherry suit on Hockey Night in Canada, and everything was normal again in the hockey world.
If Saturday night was a preview of what’s to come this year, this shortened season is gonna be a great fight-to-the-finish year around the league. Enjoy it hockey fans. Hockey is actually back.