Opening faceoff: Let’s take it outside
There’s no question that outdoor games have lost some of their luster over the years.
Once the league realized they had a hit on their hands, they started packing the schedule with outdoor games – in hindsight, probably too many. Yesterday was the 22nd time the league had gone outdoors, and the 18th since the first Winter Classic just eight years ago.
The novelty factor is all but gone, and more than a few fans were scratching their heads when they realized the league was headed outdoors again before the season was even two weeks old.
But as often seems to happen with these games, a big chunk of that cynicism fades away once the event arrives. The weekend in Winnipeg was undeniably fun, starting with a star-studded alumni game on Saturday that featured nearly all of the biggest names from the Smythe Division rivalry days, an appearance by Wayne Gretzky that may well have been his last, and a dramatic last-second winner by Teemu Selanne that was right out of a storybook.
That set a high bar for Sunday's real game.
Once things got going after a delay caused by bright sun, we were treated to a decent (if not especially exciting) 3-0 Oilers win — one that saw Cam Talbot make 31 saves on the way to his first shutout of the season.
It probably wasn't quite the sort of show the NHL was hoping for, especially given all the young talent involved in the game. But the overall spectacle of the game still worked, with a strong crowd of nearly 33,000 present and some nice shots of the stadium setup. We even got the return of the Ref Cam.
It may not have been a classic, but it all added up to an afternoon well spent.
The game will move back inside for the next two months or so, at which point we'll be treated to two outdoor games in two days (just in case anyone has gone into withdrawal).
In the meantime, let's see if we can figure out what to make of the season's first two weeks with our second crack at the power rankings.
Road to the CupHere are the five teams that look like they're headed towards Stanley Cup favourite status.
5. New York Rangers (4-2-0, +6 true goals differential*) – I don't love this pick. I'm not even sure I like it. This week's top five is kind of a mess, as we'll explain below. But the Rangers have looked strong and beat the Capitals on Saturday, so sure, why not.
4. Montreal Canadiens (4-0-1, +12) – Yes, Habs fans, I know this seems too low for the only team without a regulation loss. Chalk it up as a reluctance to overreact to five games. But there's no arguing with the numbers, and the Canadiens have looked fantastic so far this year. By this time next week, there may be no choice but to move them up the list.