Opening faceoff: Hall of Fame weekendThe annual Hall of Fame weekend is one of the highlights of the season. We get the inductees being honoured before various games around the league, an alumni game, various fan events, and it all culminates with tonight’s induction ceremony in Toronto.
This year’s class – Eric Lindros, Rogie Vachon, Sergei Makarov and Pat Quinn – is an interesting one. The three players all had to endure a long wait before hearing their names called, including 31 years for Vachon. That just goes to show we never really know who’s going to be a Hall-of-Famer, even after a player’s career has long been over. If it can take three decades to figure out whether a goalie is headed to the Hall, arguing over active players seems downright futile.
And it probably is. But it’s also fun. So let’s do it right now, by celebrating Hall of Fame weekend with a question: Which of the games on this weekend’s schedule featured the most future Hall of Famers?
Obviously, certain teams are going to be the focus here. For example, the Penguins have two sure things in Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin plus a handful of other possibilities. But they played the Maple Leafs, and with all due respect to Brendan Shanahan's rebuild, we should probably wait until mid-season to fast-track Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner's inductions.
The Lightning are another stacked team, although they're tougher to project given how young the core is. They faced the Sharks, who'll at least have Joe Thornton and could see guys like Patrick Marleau and Brent Burns make a push, so that's a good candidate.
A few other games that weren't exactly considered marquee matchups could make a case. For example, the Bruins have one lock in Zdeno Chara and another that's getting close in Patrice Bergeron, and they faced an Avalanche team that has Jarome Iginla and a bunch of young stars. And the Panthers/Islanders game featured Jaromir Jagr, Roberto Luongo and John Tavares, plus some young Florida stars.
Maybe we should be looking at the Canadiens. Shea Weber's odds look good, and at this rate Carey Price may be inducted three or four times. But they faced the Red Wings on Saturday, who really only have Henrik Zetterberg as a strong candidate right now. Last night's matchup between the Habs and Blackhawks would be a much stronger pick, but Price didn't play in that game.
But the Blackhawks do seem like the team to focus on, with Marian Hossa all but in and Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith well on their way. And luckily for us, they had another matchup over the weekend that we can use. That came on Friday, when the Hawks faced the Capitals. Washington's only sure thing right now is Alexander Ovechkin, but between Nicklas Backstrom, Braden Holtby and some of their younger pieces, they seem like a good bet to send a few players to the Hall someday.
So let's go with that. We'll pencil in Friday's Chicago/Washington game as having the most Hall-of-Fame packed matchup on the weekend schedule.
Remember to check back in 31 years to find out whether we were right.
Road to the CupThe five teams that look like they're headed towards Stanley Cup favourite status.
5. Pittsburgh Penguins (10-3-2, +7 true goals differential*) – Weird fact: Sidney Crosby has only finished in the top five in goals scored once in his career, when he won the Rocket Richard back in 2010. With 10 goals through nine games, he looks like a good bet this season.
4. Washington Capitals (9-4-1, +3) – They went into Chicago and ended the Blackhawks' seven-game win streak on Friday, then got blown out by the lowly Hurricanes on Saturday. Back-to-backs against rested opponents can take down the best.