Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Your early-season overreaction guide to the first few games

Opening​ night is almost​ here,​ with​ the​ NHL​ regular​ season kicking​ off Wednesday night.​ That means it’s​ time​ for an annual​​ hockey tradition: People reminding you to stay calm, to avoid panic, and not to overreact to every little thing that happens in a team’s first game or two of a long season.

Will we listen? No we will not. Those people are annoying, and it’s way more fun to overreact to every minor thing that happens in the season’s earliest days. We didn’t wait out three whole months of offseason just so we could be calm and measured once the season started. We want to hyperventilate now.

But even a good old-fashioned freak out works better with a plan. So to help you get started, I’ve come up with a half-dozen early storylines that will be ripe for overreaction. Feel free to get a few practice reps in before the puck drops, so that you’ll be ready to once it’s time to start mashing that panic button.

What could happen: Alexander Ovechkin doesn’t score and the Capitals drop their home opener to the Bruins.

What it would mean: Maybe if the Caps had spent less time doing keg stands and more time doing pushups they’d be ready to repeat like Sidney Crosby and the Penguins did.

The Capitals summer-long quest to drink all the alcohol was easily one of the offseason’s best stories. After almost a decade of hearing about how they could never win the big one, the team finally broke through and captured their first Cup, with Ovechkin capping it all of by taking home the Conn Smythe. Hockey players aren’t supposed to ever seem like they’re happy about anything, but the long-suffering Caps apparently decided it would be OK to let loose a little and enjoy the aftermath. There was drink, song, and a half-naked swim in a fountain. It was great.

And for the most part, the old-school traditionalist types let them have their moment. If there were any lectures about proper decorum, I don’t remember them. It’s safe to say Ovechkin and friends don’t either, because I doubt they remember anything. Either way, the party-pooper brigade stayed down.

But if Ovechkin and the Caps start off slow, all bets are off, and it’s not hard to imagine the critics coming after Washington’s stars if they seem to stumble out of the gate. You can almost picture the hot takes in advance. Good Canadian boys like Crosby and Jonathan Toews win multiple Cups because they celebrate with a lukewarm mug of skim milk and then get back to training, but apparently one ring is enough for glory boys like Ovechkin.

Or maybe not: It should go without saying that any sort of celebration-shaming would be nonsense. The Caps didn’t do anything different from every other Cup winner, other than not working as hard to hide their fun from the cameras. Trying to read anything into a slow start would be silly.

And that slow start is certainly possible; the Caps kick off their season with five straight against teams that made the playoffs last year, including four that posted at least 100 points. Things get easier from there, with eight straight against non-playoff teams, but by that point, the narratives will be set. Ovechkin won’t start off as super-nova hot as he did last year, but here’s hoping he can net a goal or two to ward off the fun police.

>> Read the full post at The Athletic

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