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Five things we learned in the NHL: Blackhawks offence explodes

Sportsnet logo Sportsnet 2017-10-06 Sportsnet Staff
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The hockey season launched on Wednesday but 14 more teams joined the fun on Thursday.

That included the Montreal Canadiens, who entered the season with a lot of questions surrounding them, and the Ottawa Senators, who are trying to stay afloat while Erik Karlsson recovers from a gruesome leg surgery.

How those teams responded in their season openers, plus some other fun facts, are what we learned in the NHL.

The Senators miss Karlsson but not for why you think

Few players are as valuable to their team as Karlsson is to the Senators, so when news broke that he wasn’t going to be healthy to start the season, the sky naturally fell in the nation’s capital.

But the reason Karlsson was missed in the team’s loss to the Capitals wasn’t the offence he brings, it was the defence.

Especially in the third period, the Capitals were able to easily move the puck around the offensive zone. Without Karlsson getting in the lanes, Evgeny Kuznetsov set up Alex Ovechkin for a third-period hat trick that erased the Senators’ lead twice and forced overtime. 

The Senators had no problem generating offence, at one point leading the game 4-2 and actually outshooting the Capitals 32-28 through overtime. Derick Brassard had three points and Mark Stone had two goals. But the blown lead in the third could have been prevented with Karlsson’s calm presence on the back end blocking shots and clearing the zone.

The Senators did manage to get one point on Thursday but there’s going to be a lot of frustrating nights in Ottawa until the captain returns.

The Canadiens are going to rely on Price more than ever

If not for Carey Price the Montreal Canadiens would still be looking for their first points of the season. The former Hart trophy winner made 43 saves in 65 minutes and another three in the shootout as the Canadiens survived an onslaught from Jack Eichel and the Sabres.

Karl Alzner, Jordie Benn and Mark Streit were all brought in in recent months to help give Price a break but they didn’t get the job done on Thursday. In his post-game column, Sportsnet’s Eric Engels wrote about the role Price played in keeping the game close.

Jonathan Drouin was the best Canadiens skater in his debut, picking up an assist, five shots and this amazing shootout goal.

But still it was Price that gave the team a chance to win, which is fine when you’re paying him a lot of money. But if the defence doesn’t get its act together, we’ll be seeing a lot of this from head coach Claude Julien.

The Blackhawks actually DO know how to score

The Chicago Blackhawks were one of the best regular season teams last season. But that didn’t matter after they got bounced from the playoffs with a four-game sweep from the Nashville Predators.

What made that loss extra embarrassing for Chicago was that in those four games, they only scored two goals. Jokes about their offence followed them all around the golf course this summer so the team needed to make a statement early in the season.

Boy did they ever.

Before the second commercial break, Chicago was up 4-0 on the defending champions from Pittsburgh, chasing former Blackhawks goalie Antti Niemi in the process. They then found the net six more times against Matt Murray, the same Matt Murray that backstopped the Penguins to back-to-back Stanley Cups as a rookie.

Patrick Kane, of course, was the offensive leader for Chicago, scoring a goal and adding three assists. Brandon Saad, in his return to the Windy City, had a hat trick, and Ryan Hartman became the first Blackhawk to pick up five points in the season opener.

And they were nice goals, too, which always adds a little extra sting to the losing side.

It was an ugly night for the Penguins but also a reminder to hockey fans… the Blackhawks aren’t done yet.

First career goals are always awesome

One of the best parts about the opening of a new season is seeing all of the rookies score their first NHL goals. These goals always come with shots of parents in the stands, crying and clapping while their child fulfills a life-long dream.

It doesn’t get any better than that.

On Thursday, a member of the Sportsnet family got the chance to be one of those parents.

Jake DeBrusk, son of Louie, scored his first goal for the Boston Bruins in his first career game. Don’t worry Louie, it’s dusty over here, too.

A few minutes later, Jake’s teammate Charlie McAvoy scored his first career goal, giving another set of parents a chance to celebrate.

Red Wings new rink is rad

We got a taste of it during the pre-season but the Red Wings played their first regular season game at the new Little Caesars Arena Thursday.

The night began with a red carpet featuring the players and some special guests.

Gary Bettman was in attendance and spoke to the media before the game. In his press conference, he hinted that the Red Wings will get a chance to host the draft and an all-star game in the near future.

Fans then saw a cool on-ice video projected underneath the world’s largest seamless centre-hung scoreboard.

But the fun didn’t stop in the pre-game. The Red Wings, who aren’t exactly being pegged as playoff favourites, actually performed well against the dominant Minnesota Wild.

Anthony Mantha became the answer to a trivia question when he scored the first goal in LCA history. While the Wild made things interesting early in the third, the Red Wings rallied to win 4-2 and send the fans out on a high.

Luke Fox was at the new rink and has more on the new home for Hockeytown in this column.

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