NHL Releases NBC / Versus Schedule: 11 Must See Games for the 2011-2012 Season
The 2011-2012 NHL season is getting closer and closer. Fans took another big step towards October today, as the league released the television schedule for all channels. Several games stand out from the rest, and we're here to help you determine which days you may want to try to get away from work to catch a particular game.
According to NHL.com, Boston and Philadelphia are tied for most appearances on NBC and Versus, with a whopping 13 aired games apiece. Pittsburgh, Detroit and Chicago will all appear on the networks 12 times apiece, while Toronto leads TSN appearances with 17.
The Boston Bruins will open the regular season on October 6 against the Flyers, and TD Garden should be electric with the raising of the Stanley Cup banner.
The NHL Premiere games will take place.over the next two days following the season opener.
On October 7, the New York Rangers will take on the LA Kings on Versus, airing from Ericsson Globe Arena in Stockholm, while the Buffalo Sabres and Anaheim Ducks will play at Hartwell Arena in Helsinki.
Then on October 8, Anaheim and New York will skate in Stockholm, while Buffalo and LA square off in Berlin.
No matter which team you pull for, certain games deserve a red Sharpie circle. Here are 10 games you just can't afford to miss for the upcoming NHL season.
These were just the first few games that jumped off of the page at me. I'm sure I'll look at the schedule later and kick myself for leaving one of these games off. But instead of waiting, how about you kick me for me. Take a look at the schedule here and tell me what you think I missed. Or at least which games you are looking forward to watching.
10/6/2011: Philadelphia Flyers vs. Boston Bruins on Versus
This day deserves a circle because hockey season will officially be on, baby!
I get the jitters just thinking about it. Or maybe that's the coffee and Pepsi I've got my body running on today. Either way, it's exciting because it's hockey, and because it's back.
The game isn't short on intrigue, however.
The Bruins will be raising their Stanley Cup banner on this night, and TD Garden is going to be rockin' pretty hard. Especially since the fans haven't had a chance to celebrate the Cup victory on home ice yet. It's going to be even louder and rambunctious than usual.
Oh, and the Flyers are in town.
The Eastern Conference rivals love each other about as much as your average UFC fan likes Justin Bieber. Which isn't a whole lot, unless I really missed something.
After two straight playoff years facing off against each other, they are familiar with each other, and there isn't a whole lot of love lost there.
Philadelphia has a totally new look coming into this season, however, and the banner raising ceremony they are going to have to sit through may light an early season fire under their hockey pants.
And how odd is Jaromir Jagr going to look in a Flyers sweater? Tune in on October 6 to find out.
10/10/2011: Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Washington Capitals on Versus
The Tampa Bay Lightning surprised everyone but themselves by knocking the pretty heavily favored Washington Capitals out of the playoffs last year. Odds are the Caps are on notice now, and have been dreaming of the first matchup with Tampa all summer long.
And it's been a long one for a team that was supposed to take a run at Lord Stanley's hardware.
They won't have to wait long at all, as it turns out. Alex Ovechkin and company will get their first crack at the team that sent their playoff dreams crashing to the ground just a few short days into the regular season.
This game could have a bit of a playoff atmosphere to it—as much as these early games can—as the Lightning try and put another dent in the confidence of the Capitals, while Washington tries to get a little revenge for the playoff loss.
Outside of that, two of the game's premier snipers will be on the ice for this one. AO for Washington and Steven Stamkos for the Lightning are two of the most exciting players in the world today. Any night that they skate against each other is a special one.
11/21/2011: Boston Bruins vs. Montreal Canadians on Versus
If you don't know why this game is one to keep an eye on, then you haven't been watching hockey for very long. Which is alright. All you need to know is that a Boston player by the name of Zdeno Chara injured a Montreal player named Max Pacioretty.
The sad outcome of the play is pictured to the side.
The two teams have played since then, and the games have been mostly uneventful.
But, unlike in the previous meetings that have taken place after the hit, Pacioretty may be out on the ice with Chara, as opposed to watching from a press box in a neck brace. Granted, the two teams will meet in early October, and that could be the first time the two skate against each other.
The NHL, in their infinite wisdom, decided not to air that game in the States on Versus, and that initial meeting will require the NHL Network to watch.
But that doesn't mean that this game couldn't be just as interesting. Those kinds of hits—the ones that cause criminal investigations, baseless as they may be—tend to reverberate for more than one or two contests.
This is hockey at the most intense, personal level it can get to. And it can make for some pretty sick games.
1/10/2012 : San Jose Sharks vs. Minnesota Wild on Versus
This will be the third time these two teams meet at this point in the regular season, but this will be the first time national television audiences will be able to watch the Wild and Sharks play each other. I find this game interesting just because of the deals the team made over the summer.
Brent Burns in a Sharks sweater will be odd enough. But Marty Havlat wearing teal while Danny Heatley rocks the forest-ish green of Minnesota is must-see TV for me.
The chance of bad blood forming between these two squads isn't high, but watching a guy like Heater try and get back at his old team for dealing him could be entertaining. Who knows what happens when that kind of talent is suddenly motivated like that?
Devin Setoguchi also switched sides and will be skating on one of the top two lines for Minnesota. Does this youngster harbor any negativity towards his old club for dealing him away? We shall see.
2/13/2012: San Jose Sharks vs Washington Capitals on Versus
This game stands out to me because both of these teams are legitimate Stanley Cup Contenders.
And the two teams mirror each other in terms of talent and failing to live up to the expectations of having such highly skilled teams. Alex Ovechkin and Joe Thronton are both star players who are in the stages of their careers where they need to bring a Stanley Cup home to be considered a great.
AO doesn't have the same string of postseason failure as Thornton, but at least Jumbo Joe has led his team to the conference Finals.
After years of underachieving, it's hard to say that this is a Stanley Cup Finals preview.
But if both of these teams get their collective acts together through April, then it could very well be the case.
2/19/2012: San Jose Sharks vs Detroit Red Wings on NBC
I'm suddenly sick of writing about the Sharks! I didn't choose three of their games in a row on purpose. Promise. But this is yet another interesting game that features San Jose, this time because it is a rematch of one of the best playoff series in recent memory.
The Wings and Sharks have met in the second round for the last two years, and the outcome has been the same. San Jose has moved on, while Detroit was left to clean out their lockers.
Last year, the two teams played each other to an absolute barn burner, and these regular season matchups should prove as great midseason litmus tests for both of these squads. Both Detroit and San Jose have Cup hopes, and the road to the finals undoubtedly will lead these two teams to a third consecutive matchup.
The fact won't be lost on the teams as they square off on national television on NBC.
3/25/2012 : Nashville Predators vs Chicago Blackhawks on Versus
After Nashville Predator Shea Weber was awarded a massive contract by an arbitrator earlier this month, a buddy of mine sent me a text asking me if I thought he was worth the money. I said without a question, yes. Weber is worth that kind of cash. Being the kind hockey-friend that I am, I asked him for his opinion.
His response was that he wasn't sure because he never gets to see Weber play.
He makes a valid point. The Predators aren't really ever on television. So I mark this as a rare chance to see Nashville play some regular season puck and an opportunity to watch one of the top defensive pairings in the NHL in Weber and Ryan Suter try to shut down a hotshot Blackhawks team that features the likes of Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews.
I hear Marian Hossa, Duncan Keith and Pekka Rinne may also be making appearances.
That's a lot of star power for one matchup, and these two Central Division foes will be battling hard for two points in what figures to be one of the tougher divisions in hockey.
4/7/2012 Chicago Blackhawks vs. Detroit Red Wings on Versus
I've written it before, and I'll write it again: The Central Division crown could very well come down to this final game of the regular season for these two teams. Of course, the Columbus Blue Jackets may have ran away with the banner by this point or something.
But I think the Central really comes down to a downright sprint between the Red Wings and the 'Hawks.
If this is the case, expect the playoffs to come a bit early this year. Winning the Central means ducking a team like San Jose in the second round—something that at least half of the teams playing in this game would probably like to do.
Even if the division doesn't come down to this winner-take-all game, this will be the final tuneup for these two talented teams heading into the postseason. It'll have a playoff feel, as the two squads will be firing on all cylinders by this point.
This could also be a playoff preview of some kind, depending on how the super tight Western Conference has shaken out.
12/20/2011 Chicago Blackhawks vs. Pittsburgh Penguins on Versus
Another potential Stanley Cup Finals preview in the middle of the season.
By this stage, Sidney Crosby should be back (hopefully), and both the Penguins and Blackhawks will be settled into enough of a groove for this game to take on some serious speed, intensity and physicality.
Both of these teams are highly skilled up front, and the game could prove to be a nightmare for whichever goaltender starts for each squad. The two squads don't play each other that often since they are in different Conferences, so it'll be cool to watch them face off on television.
And there's always the possibility that Dan Carcillo and Matt Cooke run into each other full steam, drop the gloves and beat each other senseless. We all win when two of the most hated men in hockey draw blood from one another after all.
2/1/2012 New York Rangers vs Buffalo Sabres on Versus
Another regional rivalry that is always entertaining to watch.
The Buffalo and New York games should have an added flair to them since both of these teams have really added a lot of talent over this summer—the Sabres in particular have totally revamped their roster with new additions that should make a big difference in the quality of hockey that will be played here.
The Rangers made a nice little addition of their own by netting star forward (no pun intended) Brad Richards over the offseason, and he could be centering one of the more dangerous lines in hockey if he develops some chemistry with Marian Gaborik.
The game also features two of the best netminders in all of hockey. Ryan Miller from the Sabres and Henrik Lundquist from the Rangers always keep their respective teams in the hockey game. We could be looking at a 1-0 or 2-1 contest here, and those are always fun to watch.
4/1/2012 Pittsburgh Penguins vs Philadelphia Flyers on Versus
On this night, we will find out just how forgiving Pittsburgh Penguins fans are on national television.
This won't be Jaromir Jagr's first trip back to the other side of Pennsylvania, but it will be the first trip that will be aired for all of the nation to watch. My guess is that Jags will still be getting booed every time that he touches the puck.
The playoffs will also be right around the corner since this game is in early April, and both squads will be looking to finish the season on a high note. The Flyers may be fighting for their playoff lives with only a short spring to go until their 82nd game is over.
And the Penguins could be looking to take a strangle hold on the division crown.
All of this adds up to a game that you shouldn't miss.
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