With free agency underway and the NHL schedule release coming up in just over a week, it's time to look back at some of the most memorable moments from last season.
Whether good or bad, these are the moments that will stick with fans for the long run.
For fans of the Senators, Penguins, Rangers, and Lightning, the beginning of the season was particularly special, as the teams opened the season overseas in Sweden and the Czech Republic. The teams also played several pre-season exhibition games in Europe, a feat that should continue in the NHL for some time. It’s good to see the league reach out to its international fan base.
Rangers prospect Alexei Cherepanov collapsed on the bench during a KHL game in Chekhov, Russia on October 13. The ambulance (which is normally required at all games) had already departed, and 12 minutes passed between his collapse and the doctors’ arrival. Upon arrival, it was also discovered that the battery on the defibrillator was drained. After being revived for several brief moments and being rushed to an intensive care unit, doctors were ultimately unable to save the young athlete, whose tragic death will never be forgotten in the hearts of many.
On Saturday, October 25th, the NHL scheduled all 30 teams to play. This was only the second time in league history that such a schedule was created.
Undoubtedly one of the most memorable moments of the season was the 2009 Winter Classic, held in Chicago. The Red Wings ended up winning the game 6-4, and the atmosphere and spirit of the fans in attendance provided for an entertaining game.
The All-Star game, held in Montreal to celebrate their centennial season, saw the Eastern Conference rally to beat the Western Conference 12-11 in a shootout. Carey Price, who was named starting goaltender for the Eastern Conference, also acted as goalie for the sophomore team in the Young Stars game. Blake Wheeler scored four goals and was named MVP of the Young Stars, while Alex Kovalev was named MVP of the All-Star game.
On Valentine’s Day, Capitals defenseman Mike Green scored to set a new NHL record for defenseman with goals in eight consecutive games. Just one day later, Mike Richards became the first player in the NHL history to score three career 3-on-5 shorthanded goals.
By February 23, all four teams who started the season in Europe had fired their coaches. Cory Clouston was promoted from the AHL to coach the Senators, while Dan Bylsma was hired to what would eventually become a permanent coaching position for the Penguins.
The Lightning hired Rick Tocchet shortly after firing Barry Melrose, and the Rangers fired then head coach Tom Renney, hiring John Tortorella as his replacement.
February and March saw the setting of several new goaltending records.
On February 29th, Martin Brodeur recorded his 100th shutout, the most in NHL history for a goalie. Brodeur would also become the winningest goaltender, with his 552nd win on March 17th.
Meanwhile, Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist became the first goaltender in NHL history to win at least 30 games in each of his first four seasons in the league.
On a different note, Curtis Joseph lost his 352nd game on April 8th and tied Gump Worsley for most losses by a goalie.
The playoffs also saw several important moments, including the Blue Jackets’ first playoff run in franchise history.
When the Pittsburgh Penguins won the Stanley Cup on June 12th, Sidney Crosby became the youngest captain in NHL history to win the treasured prize. Evgeni Malkin also became the first Russian player to win the Conn Smythe for playoff MVP.
With the change in schedule format, this was the first season since before the 2004-05 lockout in which every team played each other at least once during the regular season.
Possibly one of the most overlooked (and yet, very interesting) feats that occurred this season was part of an ironic twist with Jordan Leopold. Leopold played in 64 games with the Avalanche before being traded to the Flames, where he played in all of their remaining 19 games. Leopold became the only NHL player to play 83 games of the 82 game season, a rare event.
The 91st season in NHL history was full of ups and downs; what will next season bring?
There are only 88 days (and counting) left until the season starts—get ready!