Winners and Losers from the NHL’s Opening Week

Oct 18- 9 min read

Winners and Losers from the NHL’s Opening Week

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NHL hockey is back and it’s never too early to jump to conclusions.

Here are a few winners and losers from hockey’s opening week.

Winner – Pair of Kings

The Los Angeles Kings are an up and coming team with arguably the best prospect base in the NHL.

It was captain Anze Kopitar who made an impact early, though, rising to the top of the NHL scoring leaderboard with four goals and three assists in two games.

Kopitar’s seven points put him in a tie for the league lead with Steven Stamkos, only one ahead of teammate Drew Doughty (one goal, five assists).

If those two Kings can keep playing at a high level while some of the kids step up and new starting goalie Cal Petersen finds his footing, Los Angeles could surprise some people this season.

Loser – Marc-Andre Fleury

Speaking of goalies, the reigning Vezina Trophy winner was jettisoned to Chicago by the Vegas Golden Knights this past offseason, and after some humming and hawing about his hockey future, Marc-Andre Fleury decided to become a member of the Blackhawks for the 2021-22 season.

Chances are he’s now questioning that decision.

In his first two appearances with his new club, the veteran netminder allowed eight goals on 46 shots for a save percentage of .826. To make matters worse, he was yanked in the first period of his return to Pittsburgh on Saturday.

To be clear, this isn’t all on Fleury. Chicago made a bevy of questionable moves to drown out the disturbing noise surrounding the franchise this summer, and not even the return of Jonathan Toews from a year-long illness can spark the Blackhawks these days.

Winners – Brady Tkachuk and Charlie McAvoy

Ottawa Senators forward (and likely future captain) Brady Tkachuk signed a seven-year, $57.5 million contract on the day his team kicked off a new season. Tkachuk was the lone remaining restricted free agent heading into a new season secured a nice new deal.

Over in Boston, star defenseman (and possible 2022 Norris Trophy finalist) Charlie McAvoy signed up for eight more years in black and gold, signing a $76-million contract of his own.

The signings once again proved it’s a good time to be a young stud in the NHL.

Loser – Colorado Avalanche

Many view the Colorado Avalanche as Stanley Cup favourites this season, and for good reason. General manager Joe Sakic has assembled quite the roster, led by all-world forward and captain Nathan MacKinnon.

But instead of continuing to assert his dominance on the opposition to begin the season, MacKinnon tested positive for Covid-19 and had to miss the team’s first two games.

“He’s asymptomatic, feels good,” head coach Jared Bednar said of MacKinnon, per the Denver Post. “Needs a couple negative tests for him to come back. Otherwise, it’s 10 days.”

If MacKinnon is out the full 10 days, he could miss two of the three games in a road trip that begins Tuesday at Washington. The Avs also play at Florida on Thursday and at Tampa Bay on Saturday, Oct. 23.

Oh, and Gabriel Landeskog was suspended two games for a hit on Chicago’s Kirby Dach, not to mention a couple other key injuries.

Winner – Buffalo Sabres

At the other end of the expected standings spectrum, the Buffalo Sabres appear primed for a run at the first overall pick at the 2022 NHL Entry Draft. That would allow them to add prize prospect Shane Wright of the OHL’s Kingston Frontenacs.

For the moment, though, the Sabres are undefeated, having won two consecutive games to start the season, one over Montreal and another over the Arizona Coyotes, chief rivals in the Wright sweepstakes.

With the Jack Eichel saga reportedly close to being behind them, the Sabres may be adding some new faces to the lineup via trade. It’s not at all expected that Buffalo can keep winning with much regularity, it’s a nice little boost for this long-suffering fanbase.

Loser – Montreal Canadiens

Fresh off an appearance in the Stanley Cup Final, the Montreal Canadiens were already behind the 8-ball to start the season.

Captain Shea Weber is sidelined with various ailments and there’s some question as to whether he’ll ever play again, and franchise goalie Carey Price admirably made the decision to enter the NHL/NHLPA player assistance program for an indefinite period of time.

Three games into a new season, the Canadiens are 0-3-0 with only three goals to their credit. Although two of those goals have been scored by Jonathan Drouin in his return from a leave of absence to attend to his mental health, there’s little to celebrate in Montreal right now.

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