After four games last night, some highly entertaining games I should add, the rest of the NHL gets into the swing of things on Thursday night. There are a total of nine games on the card, following up the opening slate on Wednesday. Wednesday night was the Auston Matthews’ show in Ottawa. In his first ever regular season NHL game, Matthews didn’t score 1, or 2, or even 3 goals, he scored all of the Maple Leafs’ goals in a 5-4 overtime loss. Scoring 4 goals in a beer league game is impressive and all, but 4 in the NHL, mind you in a debut is mind boggling.
Leave it to the Maple Leafs to lose the game, though, as the Senators potted one in overtime, to complete a rough night for Frederik Andersen. The Leafs have been searching for a quality goaltender since the Curtis Joseph and Ed Belfour era, and Andersen did nothing to evoke much confidence from Leaf Nation.
In the end, we were able to pick up a winning pick on the first night of the NHL. It came rather easily, as the goals kept coming between the Leafs and Senators. That is going to be the story of the year for the Maple Leafs, they’re going to put together some impressive offensive showings, but look out on the defensive end. If Andersen does nothing to improve, high scoring games are going to come at a rapid pace. By just betting the OVER in Leafs’ games this season, you should come out ahead at the end of the season. We’ll see what Mike Babcock and company do to improve in their next game, though.
One of their rivals, the Montreal Canadiens, start their 2016-17 campaign out tonight in Buffalo. The Canadiens will have somewhat of a new look this season. Looking for P.K. Subban in Montreal? You’ll have to go to Nashville for that, as the 27-year-old defenceman got out of a toxic situation in Montreal. Subban was butting heads with head coach Michel Therrien, and it was ultimately Subban who the better fit is in Montreal soon enough.
You don’t know what you have before it’s gone, and I think the Canadiens are going to be feeling a bit like that this season. The Canadiens face a Sabres team this evening, who are looking to make a big leap forward with Jack Eichel at the controls. Eichel had a superb rookie campaign and is looking to build from it. However, we might have to wait for that, as Eichel was tripped up in practice and suffered a high ankle sprain.
Jack Eichel netted 24 goals and 32 assists in his first season in the NHL. It’s a big downer that he had to get injured now, notably so close to the opener. The Sabres have the playoffs on their minds, after failing to reach with a record of 35-36-11. The more realistic objective for the Sabres this season should be to just make a run at the playoffs. If they’re competitive and barely missed out, it could be considered a sign of progress in Buffalo. I expect them to find some room to score on the Canadiens tonight.
Montreal wasn’t in a position to get rid of their top defenceman. I know Subban has a knack for turning the puck over here and there and getting sloppy with the puck. However, this fact may be overstated due to the fact it’s Subban and any mistake he makes is going to be glorified. They did, however, acquire Shea Weber in the deal, who some argue is better than Subban. We shall see soon enough.
The Canadiens were 21st in the NHL defensively a year ago, allowing 2.84 goals per game, due in large part to Carey Price absence. Price helped Canada win gold at the World Cup of Hockey, but now he’s going to find himself in a familiar place in the Canadiens’ NHL opener, without pads on watching from afar. He apparently caught the flu and will be replaced by Al Montoya in net. Montoya comes to Montreal after spending two years with the Panthers. He was great in relief duty of Roberto Luongo, sporting an effective GAA of 2.18 in 25 appearances. Center Alex Galchenuk has improved with each passing season, going from 9 goals in 2012-13 to 13, 20, and then 30 a year ago. He has taken over as the clear catalyst of the Canadiens’ offense and hopes to improve yet again in 2016-17.
Not only are the Sabres going to be without Eichel, but play-maker Ryan O’Reilly is listed as doubtful. Additionally, Marcus Foligno is battling an illness coming into Thursday night. You take Eichel and O’Reilly out of the lineup for an extended period of time, and the Sabres will be in last place. If the Sabres were healthy the price in this game would have been appropriate. But the shape they’re in, I think the Habs should be bigger favorites here. I am going to side with the Canadiens in this spot.
PICK: CANADIENS TO WIN -113