It is one of my favorite times of the year, the beginning of hockey season. I admit, I probably say that every year at the start of football season, but you have to love everything going on at the moment. Football is in full swing, the start of the MLB postseason started yesterday, and today the start of hockey season. A small card on opening night on the ice, but there are always a few marquee matchups for the occasion. Saturday will provide a big day of hockey action for the weekend. Some Original 6 rivalries get us started in the 2015-16 season, as in Toronto the Leafs and Canadiens get the year started off with the first game of the season. The Rangers and Blackhawks drop the puck an hour later in Chicago, where the defending Stanley Cup Champions being their quest to defending yet another championship. The Rangers have to be starting to feel a little frustrated. Every year it is the same old story. They have a team built to win the Stanley Cup, but come up short in the playoffs. Last season they were stopped by the Tampa Bay Lightning in game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals. A year prior they lost in the Stanley Cup Finals to the LA Kings.
There is just something about getting that close and then getting shown the door. The Rangers know how that feels, as they have experienced two years in a row now. They should have a team in 2015-16 that is looking at another Stanley Cup run. All the Rangers really need to do is execute when the time comes and they’ll be fine. That is way easier said than done, though. And it feels like I am saying the same thing about the Rangers year after year, but they need the puck to break their way this season. Henrik Lundqvist isn’t getting any younger, as well as other core players on the Rangers, so they better get it done soon or the window is going to close right up on them. A win against the Chicago Blackhawks on the road would be a good start for the Rangers. But for a season as long as the NHL is, it is important to keep things in perspective, win or lose in the first game. Find my first pick of the NHL season below.
N.Y. Rangers vs. Chicago Blackhawks Pick
This offseason has not been about hockey for the Chicago Blackhawks in the media. It has all been centering on the rape allegations against Patrick Kane. I haven’t heard much talk about the on ice product of the Blackhawks, but that is what I’m going to do in this article. First thing is first. Yes, Kane will be playing tonight and I imagine there will be a cloud hanging over him before the case against him is cleared up. The Blackhawks will have their core present, here will be Kane, Jonathan Towes, and Brent Seabrook who was just signed to a large 8-year deal worth $55 million. However, on the way out is playoff savior Brandon Saad, as well as Patrick Sharp who became a familiar face on the Blackhawks. Other notable departures include Brad Richards, Antoine Vermette, and Johnny Oduya. The meat will be there for the Blackhawks, but the potatoes are off the plate for the Hawks. They won the Stanley Cup as the 16th best offense in the NHL last season and resigned one of the best defenseman in the game. Are they going to be able to make it back to the finals?
The Rangers are an aging team and the question is when are they going to hit a wall and completely regress. I don’t think it is going to be this season. I suspect they will possess one of the best defenses in the NHL once again in 2015-16. They were in the top 5 for all of last season and I see the same this season. On the blue line they rely on Ryan McDonagh, Marc Stall, and Dan Girardi as their main pieces. And with Lundqvist in net, there will be no issues with their defense.
The biggest thing working against them is the division they’re in. The Penguins, Islanders, Capitals are all threats and aren’t going to lay down and play dead. They’re going to have work to do in the Metro division. As far as tonight is concerned, I think they catch the Blackhawks napping in their first game back following the Stanley Cup victory. In any case, the price of this one is skewed too heavily to the Blackhawks in my opinion. I have to go with the Rangers.
PICK: RANGERS TO WIN +116