Hope everyone is enjoying their Labor (or Labour for my Canadian friends) Day holiday. The good news is we are less than a month away from the start of the National Hockey League season on October 1. There are some very intriguing matchups throughout the first half on the season. (There is no All-Star break due to the NHL’s participation in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.) I’ll give the top matchups before the Olympics on February 8. (I’ll do another listing after the Olympics are over with because we could get some new storylines after that.)
Oct 1: Washington Capitals at Chicago Blackhawks: It’s the banner raising for the defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks as they start the season against a man that is desperate to burn his name onto the Cup in Alexander Ovechkin. The Hawks kept most of their team together and should be a threat to repeat.
Nov. 5: Dallas Stars at Boston Bruins: After a blockbuster trade, Tyler Seguin returns to the TD North Gardens to take on the B’s. Will he be motivated to show his old club that they gave up on him too soon?
Nov. 30: Vancouver Canucks at New York Rangers: Returns will be a theme on this list. This day’s featured return will be of John Tortorella to Madison Square Garden after he was let go by the Rangers’ management. I can only imagine the post-game press conference when he runs to his frequent verbal punching bag, longtime NHL writer Larry Brooks.
Dec. 1: Detroit Red Wings at Ottawa Senators: The return to old stomping grounds theme continues as Daniel Alfredsson returns to the Canadian Tire Centre after he left the Sens. (And all of the subsequent drama that has followed between him and owner Eugene Melnyk and General Manager Bryan Murray.) How will he be received? Will get an ovation or a chorus of boos for bolting to a new division rival?
Dec. 10: Boston Bruins at Calgary Flames: Jarome Iginla’s first game back in Calgary as a member of the Bruins. Iginla was traded to the Penguins, but signed with the Bruins in the offseason. The departure of the beloved former captain didn’t have the acrimony of the Alfredsson to Detroit scenario so I expect Iginla to be well-received on his return.
Dec. 19: Columbus Blue Jackets at Philadelphia Flyers: The Philadelphia Flyers have had tons of goaltending issues for years and thought that Ilya Bryzgalov was the answer and traded Sergei Bobrovsky. Little did they know that Bobrovsky would turn in his best season and win the Vezina Trophy (best goalie in the league award.) Bobrobsky comes back to Philly and Bryz is somewhere in the universe. Plus, this gives me an excuse just to play former TSN and current Fox Sports 1 anchor Jay Onrait yelling “Bobrovsky” several times.
Jan. 1 Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Detroit Red Wings, at Ann Arbor, Michigan: The Winter Classic returns after a hiatus due to a lockout. Outdoor games have been played at Michigan Stadium, but an NHL game hasn’t been. The New Year’s Day tradition has managed to find a place amongst the college football games in the American sporting landscape.
Jan. 19: Boston Bruins at Chicago Blackhawks: Anytime a rematch of the Stanley Cup Final happens, it’s a game to watch. No further explanation needed.
Jan. 22: Chicago Blackhawks at Detroit Red Wings: Due to the realignment, the Red Wings and Blackhawks (two of the Original Six) will only play each other twice. The first meeting will be on this date at the Joe Louis Arena. I think it’s the biggest loss of the new realignment. (There is a possibility of a meeting in the Cup final.)
Jan. 25: Anaheim Ducks vs. Los Angeles Kings, at Dodger Stadium: It will be interesting to see the ice conditions for this game. If it does go off without a hitch, will there be games in places like Nashville, Tampa and Miami?
That’s my top 10, but I didn’t forget games like the Stadium Series at Yankee Stadium between the Rangers, Devils and Islanders and the matchups like the Avalanche versus the Predators where Seth Jones takes on the club that should’ve drafted him. Anyway, it will be a fun interesting NHL season. If you have other games to suggest, leave them in the comments below or tweet me on Twitter @DanMountSports
Dan Mount is an NHL columnist for TJRSports.com. He is based out of Watertown, NY.