After months of waiting, the 2020-21 NHL finally began with a plethora of games starting January 13th. It will be a unique season unlike any other one we’ve seen, one with just 56 games and teams only playing their divisional opponents. Despite the changes, opening weekend was still a success, full of exciting games, highlight reel goals, and plenty of physical play. After forty-two games played over six days, here’s what we learned.
Kirill Kaprizov’s seamless transition
Drafted in 2015 by Minnesota, Kirill Kaprizov dominated the KHL for five years, leading many analysts and fans to dub him as the top prospect in the NHL. After years of waiting, the 23 year old Kaprizov finally made his transition to the NHL, and so far, has lived up to expectations. His first game saw him put up three points, including the overtime winner; he followed that up with another overtime point, an assist on the game winning goal in game number two. So far, Kaprizov has shown why he was rated an elite prospect, and Minnesota fans should be extremely happy with what they see.
McDavid and Draisaitl still reign
After finishing one-two in scoring last season, the Edmonton duo picked up right where they left off, with each forward scoring five points in just four games played. Draisaitl, the 2019-20 Hart Trophy Winner, and McDavid, the 2016-17 Hart Trophy Winner, will be leaned on by the Oilers to help them contend in a tough North Division. Another top five scoring finish by both forwards would certainly give them a step up on their divisional opponents.
Blackhawks in for a long season
Even before losing three straight games to start the season, Chicago was already having a rough 2021. Captain Jonathan Toews and youngster Kirby Dach were both ruled out long term, leaving the Blackhawks without their top two centers for what looks like a majority of the season. They’ve also allowed five goals in all three games they’ve played, perhaps a testament to their potential goaltending struggles. Chicago could be in for a long season if they’re unable to figure their lineup woes.
Divisional schedules add potential for fun rivalries
This season, the new divisions don’t just add more games played against regional opponents, they also add potential for fierce rivalries. Rather than playing one opponent after another, teams are now playing two game “series” against each other, similar to how Major League Baseball works. With this new setup, coupled with only being scheduled to play divisional opponents, this adds to the possibility of some exciting rivalries forming. There’s already been plenty of scraps since the season started, including this one at the end of the Columbus-Detroit game. As the season progresses, look for more heated moments like that.
Maple Leafs, Golden Knights off to hot start
Toronto has been off to a great start, going 3-1 in four games and leading the league with 6 points after the weekend. Toronto also has three players in the top ten for league scoring, two of which, Mitch Marner and John Tavares, lead the league (6 points each). Similar to Edmonton, Toronto will need their stars to play well in order to contend in a tough North Division, and so far, they have. The Golden Knight have also had a successful start to the season, winning all three of their games to join Toronto at the top of the league’s standings. New captain Mark Stone also sits right behind Tavares and Marner with 5 points. Vegas is hoping this hot start will lead them to a second straight division title.
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