Evgeni malkin wore a baseball cap with the image of a tiger on Tuesday. It was more ad hoc, as the Pittsburgh Penguins Center spoke as if he were about to be released from a cage.
“I miss hockey a lot, even,” he said.
Is not that the case for all of us?
The NHL has not been in action since Sept. 28, when the Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the Dallas Stars 2-0 in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final.
At this point, we should have prepared for the 2020-21 season. Instead, we ended the 2019-20 season, which had to be cut down on March 12 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Finally, after three and a half months of waiting – and 10 months for the seven teams that did not participate in the 2020 season games – it is time to drop the puck on the ice. Now is the time to look ahead.
And there will be plenty to look at, starting with the opening night on Wednesday.
The Philadelphia Penguins and Flyers will write a new chapter in their rivalry at the Wells Fargo Center (17:30 ET; NBCSN, SN1). This will be followed by another classic: a duel between the Montreal Canadiens and the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Scotiabank Arena (19:00 ET; SN, TVAS).
Lightning begins the title defense against the Chicago Blackhawks at Amalie Arena at 8 p.m. ET (NBCSN).
The Edmonton Oilers host the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Place (22:00 ET; SN, SN1, TVAS). Then the Colorado Avalanche and St. Louis Blues meet at the Ball Arena (10.30pm ET; NBCSN, ALT).
“I think the guys did a good job of pushing through these difficult circumstances,” said Penguins coach Mike Sullivan. In my opinion, the guys are totally invested in this experience, and that’s what it takes to win in this league.
“So now the journey begins, and for me it is the best part. This is the reward. It is a difficult challenge, we know that. I think we are prepared for that, and we just need to trust each other, lean on each other and live in the moment. “
The regular season will consist of 56 games instead of 82. Sections have been changed due to border restrictions between Canada and the United States and the need to reduce travel.
The top four teams from each section advance to the playoffs in the Stanley Cup.
In other words, the regular season will be a sprint to the playoffs. Each match will be crucial, even more than usual, in a league where parity has already been raised. Since the teams will only play against those in their own section, the competition for a playoff spot will be fierce. And the rivalries will be intense.
“It will be difficult to qualify for the playoffs with the quality of the teams in our section,” Flyers coach Alain Vigneault said on Tuesday. We understand that we must be at the top of our game. But we are up to the challenge, we look forward to seizing the opportunity and it begins [maintenant].
“I think all the teams and their fans are very happy that hockey is back, and we will try to deliver good hockey, play winning hockey and do the right things to be winners. “
No one can take the season lightly, not even the defending champions.
“With a short season, we can not afford to wait 15-20 games to find our rhythm, and I think our squad understands that very well,” said the Lightning defender. Ryan mcdonagh.
The teams that did not reach the playoffs in 2020 managed to start the training camp on 31 December, while the other teams started on 3 January. No preparatory match has been played. The teams were only able to organize matches within teams.
“I think everyone has a downside in that sense,” Lyn coach Jon Cooper said. You can only compete against teammates, and the players know each other’s tendencies. It’s just not the same. It will be a challenge for everyone in the league. The first match against another opponent is worth two points. “
It will be strange not to see any fans – or very few where it is allowed – in the stands, even for the teams that have had the experience in the bubbles in the playoffs in 2020.
But if you’ve bored of hockey, be there.
“Expectations are high,” Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said. The boys trained a lot in the low season. The excitement, the hustle and bustle and everything that comes with the opening night, except for the fans who will not be there to cheer on us in the amphitheater, those feelings and emotions are still there. “
With the help of Adam Kimelman, NHL.com Associate Editorial Director