The 2017-2018 NHL Season will be opening on October 4 with two games, both between two highly competitive pairs.
By: Margie Dillman, Sports Editor
Almost 4 months after the Pittsburgh Penguins won their second Stanley Cup in a row, the 2017-2018 National Hockey League season will start on Wednesday, October 4. The season will open with a game between the reigning champs and the St. Louis Blues, followed immediately by a contest between the San Jose Sharks and the Philadelphia Flyers. Two East Coast teams will battle two West Coast teams, but that is about all that the pairs have in common.
After a formidable playoff run two years ago that got the team to the final round, the San Jose Sharks once again made it to the playoffs last June after a season trademarked by Brent Burns’s continuous dominance over the blue line as well as the developing skills of goaltender Martin Jones slowly but surely turning him into one of the top goalies in the league. The Sharks played the Edmonton Oilers in the first round of last year’s playoffs, losing two games to four and getting knocked out. As far as their fellow western team, the St. Louis Blues, the Blues made it to the second round of the playoffs last year with a win over the Minnesota Wild before losing to the Nashville Predators two games to four as well. The Blues have made the playoffs for the last six seasons, the last missed year being during the 2010-2011 season. The Sharks are newer to the playoffs than the Blues, with their streak only lasting since 2014-2015.
As far as their Eastern division opponents, the Pittsburgh Penguins are expected to continue their winning streak, as the last two seasons have shown the team to be an absolutely dominant force. Even after an offseason full of painful trades, such as losing the veteran goalie Marc-André Fleury to the draft for the new Las Vegas team as well as one of the alternate captains Chris Kunitz to the Tampa Bay Lighting, the Penguins are still projected to be one of the top Stanley Cup contenders. If this Metropolitan division team were to win the Cup this year they would be the first team to successfully go for a three peat since the New York Islanders won the championship from 1980-1983. Their rivals, the Philadelphia Flyers, have had a less successful couple of years with their last five seasons ending with either no playoff possibility or a loss in the first round. However, these Broad Street Bullies are looking to be turned around this season by rookie Nolan Patrick, who the Flyers picked second overall during this year’s draft season. Patrick will be in good company in terms of skill on the Flyers, as players such as Travis Konecny, Wayne Simmons, and Claude Giroux are sure to impress during the upcoming season.
These two games will be the only ones occurring on opening night in the NHL, and will surely be ones to watch. The St. Louis Blues have a star in captain Alex Pietrangelo as well as in alternate captain, speedster Vladimir Tarasenko. However, the team will have a hard time beating the reigning champs, as the Penguins welcome the return of crucial defenseman Kris Letang after losing him to a herniated disk in his neck that required surgery right before the beginning of last years playoffs. The Flyers and the Sharks both have talent to spare, with the Sharks edging the Flyers out in terms of goaltending and defense but falling short to the Flyers offensive ability. These two games will both be aired of NBCSN as part of the Wednesday Night Rivalry segment, and are anticipated highly by hockey fans throughout North America.