NHL Lockout: 10 Early-Season Games We Wish Had Been Played
It's Halloween, and that means it would be great if the NHL leadership masqueraded as forward-thinking executives instead of small-minded dweebs who were intent on ruining the sport.
It also means that the first month of the NHL season has gone by the boards, and there are a number of games that hockey fans have missed that would have been first-rate entertainment.
Here's a look at 10 October games we wish had been played.
New York Rangers at Los Angeles Kings, Oct. 12
New York will likely be a Stanley Cup favorite when (if) the season begins, and it would not be a shocker if these two teams were to meet in the 2013 Stanley Cup Finals.
Start off with the matchup of goaltenders Henrik Lundqvist and Jonathan Quick. Add in new Rangers forward Rick Nash, who will give the Rangers deeper scoring this season.
The Kings dominated in the postseason last year, and they would like to show they are much more than a No. 8 seed in the regular season.
This would have been an outstanding game to start the season.
Pittsburgh Penguins at Buffalo Sabres, Oct. 13
The Penguins should have one of the most explosive offensive teams in the league on their best nights because the combination of Crosby and Evegeni Malkin strikes fear into opposing teams.
However, they would have been challenged by the goaltending of Ryan Miller and the edge that new Sabre Steve Ott brings to the ice.
This could have been a hard-fought and highly entertaining game.
Boston Bruins at Montreal Canadiens, Oct. 16
This is the best of the NHL's traditional rivalries and it is always worth watching, no matter where the two teams are in the standings.
The Bruins are expected to be one of the stronger teams in the East, although they will have to show how well they can live without Tim Thomas, who is taking a year off.
The Canadiens finished dead last in the Eastern Conference last year, but they have a new general manager and coach and they should be much more competitive this season.
Another spine-tingling game between these two rivals would not have been a surprise.
Detroit Red Wings at St. Louis Blues, Oct. 18
The Detroit Red Wings have many questions to answer this season, and the most important one is how will they cope without retired superstar defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom.
The Red Wings also failed to land the talented free agents they coveted in the offseason. Mike Babcock will be under pressure to keep this team near the top.
The St. Louis Blues were one of the great stories last year, rising from also-ran to the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference. The team took off after Ken Hitchcock took over as head coach because the team responded to his disciplined approach.
This would likely have been a hard-hitting game featuring excellent defensive play and intensity for 60-plus minutes.
Minnesota Wild at Dallas Stars, Oct. 18
We would have liked this game even more if the Stars were coming up to their former home in Minnesota, but we'll gladly take this matchup.
The Wild has a chance to be a much-improved team when the season finally begins. They hit a couple of offseason home runs when they signed free agents Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. They should be in playoff contention throughout the season.
The Stars finished ninth last season and have missed the postseason for four consecutive seasons. They signed veterans Jaromir Jagr and Ray Whitney in the offseason to help get back into the playoff mix, and this would have been a must-see game.
Edmonton Oilers at Los Angeles Kings, Oct. 21
Sooner or later, the talent on the Edmonton Oilers roster is going to bubble up and this team is going to turn potential into production.
Players like Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov will give this team a huge boost, and they will make the jump to strong championship contender. It may not be this year, but the Oilers would have had a chance to show their stuff against the defending Stanley Cup champions.
This is a rivalry that is going to take off again as the Oilers mature and demonstrate their offensive explosiveness on a regular basis.
Vancouver Canucks at Detroit Red Wings, Oct. 22
While they have been frustrated in the playoffs each of the last three years, the Vancouver Canucks are not going away.
They will be at or near the top of the Western Conference once again this season. They are a mature and fully developed team and they know how to win on the road.
The sight of the Canucks' uniforms usually brings out the best and most emotional efforts from their opponents, and the Red Wings are no exception. They are not going to let the Canucks walk into Detroit and have their way with them.
Look for a tough, hard-nosed meeting filled with explosive offensive play whenever these two teams get together.
This is another game that it hurts to miss.
New York Rangers at Tampa Bay Lightning, Oct. 23
The Tampa Bay Lightning endured a painful 2011-12 season. They failed to make the playoffs after getting all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals the year before.
After dropping the seventh game of that series to the Boston Bruins, the Lightning never regained their footing last year.
However, they have the kind of talented roster that could allow them to bounce back this year. Start off with sniper Steven Stamkos, throw in clever veteran Martin St. Louis and make sure that Vinny Lecavalier is included in the mix.
Head coach Guy Boucher wants to see this team re-establish itself by playing its best hockey against the powerhouse teams. The Rangers certainly qualify, and they would have been forced to contend with Tampa Bay's best effort.
Chicago Blackhawks at St. Louis Blues, Oct. 23
These two teams have never liked each other, and there are usually hard feelings whenever the Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues take the ice.
The Blackhawks no longer are basking in the thrill of having won the 2010 Stanley Cup. It's time for them to go out and prove it on an every-night basis. They will look to Jonathan Toews to set the tone.
The Blues would have tried to match the effort with hard hitting and defense. T.J. Oshie is the Blues' answer to Toews.
This would have been one of the most intense games of the first month of the season.
Nashville Predators at San Jose Sharks, Oct. 30
The Nashville Predators absorbed a big blow in the offseason when Ryan Suter signed a free-agent contract with the Minnesota Wild.
It nearly got much worse when hard-shooting Shea Weber signed an offer sheet with the Philadelphia Flyer, but the Preds refused to capitulate, and they matched the offer.
Barry Trotz always has a nasty and hard-working team, and they would have tried to take it to their hosts. The Sharks may not be Western Conference favorites this season, but they still have Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau and they are capable of rising above expectations.
Fans would have gotten their money's worth on this game.