We’re just about one week through a new NHL campaign, and what an eventful first week it has been. There seemed to be surprising or noteworthy developments just about every single night since the season opened last Wednesday, so if you haven’t been paying close attention then there’s a good chance you’ve missed quite a bit.
As fans try to get a grasp on what they can expect from players and teams moving forward, here are five things of note so far.
1. That Auston Matthews kid is for real
Auston Matthews was the top overall pick in this summer’s draft and is widely considered to be one of the best prospects to enter the league over the past decade or so. The 19-year-old took little time to announce his arrival, exploding for four goals in his NHL debut with the Maple Leafs.
One of those goals came on this incredible effort:
Matthews became the first player in NHL history to score four in his debut, and he only needed six shots to do it (he scored on his first three). He’s one of several Toronto prospects that are going to make the Leafs fun to watch.
Not only is Matthews extremely skilled, but he could also prove to be incredibly important and influential to the future of the league. He’s somewhat of a rare breed, considering his hockey upbringing is not what you would expect for a top-tier talent: He was born in California, raised in Arizona, is half-Mexican and decided to play hockey because he liked Zambonis. If he’s successful, that could have a profound effect on the sport’s future in the American Southwest.
Either way, he proved in Game No. 1 that he is more than ready for the big stage.
2. Where art thou, Carey Price?
Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price is one of the best (if not the best) in the world at stopping pucks, but the Habs had to start this season without their 29-year-old netminder between the pipes.
That’s far too familiar a feeling for Canadiens fans, who saw their team crumble after Price went down with an MCL sprain after just 12 games in net last season. Price appeared to be in good form at the World Cup of Hockey earlier this fall, going undefeated during Canada’s championship run.
However, he apparently came down with a nasty case of the flu during preseason and has missed the Canadiens’ first three games to start the year. He’s reportedly feeling a bit better and trying to ease back into things, but Montreal coach Michel Therrien said Price won’t be back in net until he puts back on the weight he’s lost and is feeling 100 percent. Until then, Al Montoya will fill in.
Because we saw how important Price is to the Canadiens last year, the goaltender’s absence has caused a stir and feeling of uneasiness in Montreal, even for his teammates and their families.
Brendan Gallagher on conspiracy theories from fans on Price flu: "Even my own family is getting conspiratorial."
3. For better or for worse, the Oilers are very entertaining
The Edmonton Oilers have been the laughing stock of the NHL for the past handful of years or so. Their biggest claim to fame has been a knack for winning the draft lottery year after year, yet still continuing to ice an ugly product.
But they’re looking to start fresh this year. They’ve got a new captain in Connor McDavid and a new home in Rogers Place, which hosted its first regular season game in a Battle of Alberta against the Flames last Wednesday. The Oilers won 7-4, McDavid scored two goals and everything was sunshine and rainbows for a few days.
The second game at the new arena, however, was much more unpleasant. Edmonton stunk up the joint as they got steamrolled 6-2 by the Buffalo Sabres. After the game, coach Todd McLellan sounded much more frustrated than a man coaching his third game of the season should sound.
"From each and every game you learn lessons. We learned the lesson that we can’t handle prosperity yet. We just got kicked right between the legs and we deserved it," McLellan said.
“We have some foundation things that we have to continue to fix as an organization. And stupidity is one of them.”
The team was supposed to have a mandated day off (per the CBA) following that game, but McLellan cancelled it and made his squad hit the ice.
The Oilers have a very talented young team that is pretty fun to marvel at in both victory and defeat, but if this is how unhinged McLellan is after their very first loss this year, we should all be rooting for another lowly year in Edmonton.
4. It was a week of firsts
The first week of the season typically provides some great initial memories that newcomers to the league will hold onto forever. There seemed to be even more than usual this year, and it might be because the league’s number of players under age 24 (174) is the most that it’s been in the last five years.
Twenty-two players recorded the first point(s) of their career after making their debut over the past week. Nine of them scored the first goal(s) of their career, including Matthews, who made history with his insane debut.
But it wasn’t just the new guys who experienced exhilarating firsts. Four players recorded hat tricks in week one, and it was the first time doing so for each of them. In addition to Matthews’ four, more experienced souls like Richard Panik, Joe Colborne, and Mike Green all lit the lamp three times to start their season off strong.
5. Center ice goals are all the rage
As the ol’ hockey adage goes, "put pucks on net and good things will happen." That was the case in the opening week of the season, even when guys were just trying to dump pucks into the zone from center ice.
Heck, guys even put pucks into their own net from center ice.