NHL Openers: '07-'08 Off to a Wild Start

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NHL Openers: '07-'08 Off to a Wild Start
IconBefore I go ranting on about the young NHL season, let me publish here and now my predictions for '07-'08:

Eastern Conference

1) Ottawa
2) New York Rangers
3) Atlanta
4) Pittsburgh
5) Buffalo
6) Tampa Bay
7) New Jersey
8) Toronto
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9) Philadelphia
10) Carolina
11) Washington
12) New York Islanders
13) Florida
14) Montreal
15) Boston

Western Conference

1) San Jose
2) Detroit
3) Vancouver
4) Calgary
5) Anaheim
6) Dallas
7) Nashville
8) Minnesota
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9) Colorado
10) St. Louis
11) Los Angeles
12) Chicago
13) Edmonton
14) Columbus
15) Phoenix

All right—now that those picks are out in the light, let's talk about how opening night turned them completely upside down.

WOW.

My question to everyone: Who the hell are the Columbus Blue Jackets?

The Jackets stung the defending Stanley Cup champion Ducks last night. Where did that performance come from? Is Ilya B. not the Ducks' real go-to goalie?

Rick Nash has come alive, folks—two goals and two assists. This guy is on the wrong team.

The secret for the Jackets against the Ducks was Federov teamed with Nash and Vyborny. Why didn't this line come together last year? Honestly, it must've taken Hitchcock all summer to dream up a fearsome threesome like this.

The numbers don't lie here—the puck movement and chemistry between the three left me speechless. Columbus is looking like a darkhorse in the West—as is Chicago.

Though it's only one game in, the Central Division may turn out to be much more than just a battlefield for Nashville and Detroit.

On the topic of the Blackhawks—I got a chance to see them battle the Wild Thursday night on Center Ice Online.

First off, my condolences to the Wirtz family for the loss of Bill, a powerful figure in Chicago Blackhawks history. He died after a long bout with cancer at the age of 77.

On the ice, Patrick Kane's first game turned out to be exciting one. The top pick in the June draft looked like a natural, even in spite of his small stature.

The passing, the speed, the quick reads—this kid is proving to be more than meets the eye.

Even more surprising was the final score: 1-0 Minnesota. Bouchard's goal at 4:47 into the second period was the only tally on the night.

Khabibulin and Nik Backstrom were stellar on both ends, and Backstrom proved that last year wasn't just a one-shot deal. The goalie looked sharp in spoiling Kane's debut.

Kane saw just under 17 minutes of ice time—a heavy burden for a young kid, especially in his first game. It should be interesting to see how he handles the load throughout the season.

Elsewhere, Pittsburgh fell hard to the Hurricanes—who just might be as resilient as they were in their years of Cup contention.

I'm expecting Carolina to miss the playoffs, but they could nip their way into the eighth spot by the end of the year

The Canes' 4-1 victory would have been a 4-0 shutout if it weren't for Mark Recchi's goal with 3:30 remaining in the third. Eric Staal's two goals in the first period set the tone for Peter Laviolette's rebounding squad.

Bobby Crosby needs to step up his game and lead his young team. The early exit from last year's playoffs should be enough to inspire the Pens—but they'll need to win tonight's game against the Ducks to get the ball rolling.

The Ducks, I'm sure, are still reeling from their loss to the Jackets, and will also be looking to get back on track—even without Penner and Selanne.

Buffalo looked to set an early tone against the team they bounced in five games in the first round of the '06-'07 playoffs—but the new-look Islanders turned the table.

It was more or less the Mike Comrie show, as he tallied two goals and two assists on the night. On the whole, the goaltending was solid for both teams—it's the defenses that were to blame in a high-scoring contest.

The game was tied 3-3 after the first period, but powerplays helped the Islanders push ahead. Both teams will have to work out the kinks before they meet each other again at Nassau Coliseum this evening.

The Atlanta Thrashers were the victims of another upset at the hands of Southeastern rival Washington. As in the Islanders win, the newcomers made the difference—goals from from Michael Nylander and Viktor Kozlov propelled the Capitals to a 3-1 victory.

The new-look Thrashers may not be as strong as I expected them to be. DeVries, Mellanby, and Tkachuk are all gone—so we'll have to see where things go for the defending Southeastern champions.

I'm going to end it here—but the crazy mess to open the year means we'll talk more soon. The Podcast will be back in a matter of days, so don't fear.

Keep it here as the season gets rolling.
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