The NHL is finally back. After a busy offseason, weeks of training camp and a World Cup thrown in for good measure, we’re just one more day away from watching NHL games that matter again.
By tomorrow night, the season will have started. By the weekend, we’ll have seen each team at least once or twice. And by Sunday, we’ll have freaked out over the results of those one or two games, because they’ll have told us everything we need to know about how the season will turn out.
We probably shouldn’t do that last one. But we can’t help it – we’re hockey fans, and overreacting is in our nature. And if we know we’re going to do it anyway, we might as well go into the first slate of games with a plan.
So here are eight key games to watch over the next few days, the results that would have us all jumping to conclusions, and why we may want to hold off just in case we’re wrong.
Flames at Oilers (Wednesday)
What could happen: In the official unveiling of their new Rogers Place home, the Oilers lose to their provincial rivals.
What it would mean: Oh no, here we go again.
Or maybe not: Stop me if you've heard this one before, but the Oilers are heading into the season with high hopes that this is the year they finally rejoin the Western Conference playoff race. For once, there's some legitimate reason for that confidence: Connor McDavid is healthy, Milan Lucic is here, the blue line is better, and the new arena should add to the excitement.
But there's still a decade of history here, and it wouldn't take much to for some of that negativity to creep back into the season after a few bad losses. Granted, we're being a little bit overdramatic here, as you'd have to think that even battle-scarred Edmonton fans will give the team more than a game or two before panicking. So instead, let's pencil them in for three. (But all bets are off if Taylor Hall gets off to a quick start in New Jersey.)