The Chicago Blackhawks have barely emptied the champagne from the Stanley Cup, but it's already time to take a look at the upcoming games in the 2010-2011 NHL season, as the official schedule was released on Tuesday.
For the Toronto Maple Leafs, fans don't yet know what the team will look like on the ice when they open the season on Oct. 7, 2010, but before Brian Burke even begins his off-season moves there's already plenty to look forward to.
With a new jersey, a new captain, and new faces on the ice, it will certainly be a different looking Leafs club from the one that skated off the ice just a few months ago. If this summer sees some fresh young talent added to the roster, the beginning to next year will be one riddled with even more anticipation and excitement from a Nation of Leaf fans dying to see a winner on the ice.
It’s one of the most anticipated summers the Leafs have had in quite some time, with the prospect that this team is close to achieving a roster that is sufficient to make it to the playoffs in the coming seasons.
There's still a few months yet to go before the new season kicks off, and plenty of work to be done in the front office, but here's an early sneak peek at some of next season's best early games to look forward to for the Maple Leafs.
It’ll be here sooner than you think.
The first night of the NHL season will open up in Toronto with a clash of the oldest rivals in the league—the Maple Leafs and the Montreal Canadiens.
There is always a buzz in the air when these two teams take the ice, and there will no doubt be talk of the way last season ended for the Leafs. Their overtime victory over the Canadiens in game 82 allowed the Habs to gain the one point they needed to clinch a playoff spot.
Imagine how different the playoffs would have been if the Leafs could have finished things off in 60 minutes; not that it will have anything to do with how the season starts for either team.
It will also be the first night Dion Phaneuf puts on the jersey as the Maple Leafs captain—a historic night to be sure, and one that will officially kick off the new-look Leafs in what fans hope will be the first trip to the playoffs in five seasons.
And of course, we know who won't be starting in net for the Montreal Canadiens. Apparently single-handedly getting your team to the Conference Finals isn't worth what it once was.
The kick-off to the 2010-2011 season is set up to be a doozy, and as they usually do, these two teams will offer up a closely contested, heated affair. Don’t be surprised if, just like last season, this game needed extra time before a winner is decided.
The battle of Ontario kicks off with the first Saturday night game of the season on Hockey Night in Canada, and just like last season, the biggest story between these two could be the personal battle between Colton Orr and Matt Carkner.
The two fought five times last season in spirited bouts, but with the Leafs looking to be much more competitive in the coming year, they could prove to be a back story to what will hopefully be the continuation to the rejuvenation of the provincial rivalry.
It will also be interesting to see if Phil Kessel continues his dominance over the Sens, as he scored seven goals in the six games they played last year; seemingly replacing Dany Heatley in the rivalry as the player who consistently bulges the twine at a torrid pace when the two meet up.
But there hardly needs to be much of a reason to watch a game between these two, as whether everything is on the line or nothing at all, they always prove to be entertaining; and the first of six next year will be no different.
Not much more needs to be said for you to watch a game than it's going to include Sidney Crosby, but for the Leafs and Penguins first match-up of the season there will be some added flare.
It will be the first time the Leafs play in the brand-spanking-new arena in Pittsburgh. That may seem like peanuts to those watching on TV and not actually in the new building, but if you remember the lighting that the igloo offered for so many years, we may now actually be able to see the action on the ice.
Which always helps.
With a new arena, the proverbial rebuild of Pittsburgh is now officially complete, after years of financial difficulty and the risk of moving to a different city loomed, the Cup Finals and victory solidified the franchise as legitimate once again. With a new pad, it's now official.
The Penguins are back; even if we’ve known that for a while now.
It's always nice to play against one of the youngest, brightest teams in the NHL, but when you get to play in their new building too, makes things a little more special.
If last season's match-ups between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins were a media frenzy because of the Phil Kessel factor, the upcoming season is going to be downright insane.
With the Bruins holding the Leafs' first-round pick (second overall) they'll most likely be choosing Tyler Seguin, and the talk and comparing will officially begin as far as who got the better deal in the trade last summer.
Of course, this one game won't convince either side that their team got the better end of the deal (well it might) but it will be the beginning of what will be an even deeper rivalry between the two Original Six combatants.
Games between these two will be a whole lot sexier, a tough thing to imagine after last season’s dramatics.
The teams will forever be linked by the Kessel deal, as well as the one that sent Tuukka Rask to Boston for Andrew Raycroft-who no longer plays anywhere near Toronto.
Mark this game on your calendars. Kessel will once again hear the boos reign down from the stands, and maybe, just maybe, the contingent of Leaf fans in the crowd will cry foul whenever the Bruins selection happens to have the puck in his possession too.
Yea, that's a pretty safe bet.
Gone are the days of a Bruins-Leafs snooze fest. These games, now more than ever, matter to both sides, if for any other reason than bragging rights.
The game isn't exactly an early one in the season, as it falls a quarter of the way into the campaign, but it would be tough to talk about games to anticipate without mentioning the first time Taylor Hall and the Edmonton Oilers comes to town.
Hall, along with Jordan Eberle and a slew of other young players that make up the majority of the Oilers will be looking to have a major bounce back season after finishing 30th last year.
All the hype and media surrounding Hall before his NHL career even begins will have already been put to the test by the time he rolls into Toronto, but for fans here it will be the first and only opportunity of the season to see the kid work his magic in person.
It was also to be the second time that former Leaf coach Pat Quinn stood behind the bench in his old stomping grounds, but in somewhat of a shocking event, his move to the front office will end any chance of that.
But an infrequent game between these two is always something to look forward to, and when you throw the much-talked-about first round pick into the mix it only gets better.
Those are the games, the stage is set, let the season begin! Okay, fine, we technically haven’t even begun the off-season yet, forgive my excitement.
We’ll let things fully get set this summer in hopes that these match-ups, as well as every other, have an even better storyline waiting to be written.