Hockey is officially back! The NHL announced last Sunday that the 2020-21 NHL opening night and the season would commence beginning on January 13th. Important dates were put on the calendar for the upcoming season and that includes training camps, the trade deadline, playoffs, free agency, etc. The league also announced the official division realignment for this season. On Wednesday, the NHL announced the schedule and that includes a five-game slate for 2021 NHL opening night. The start-up of this season will have emotion like no other. We’re just under a month away from hockey as fans have been anxiously waiting for this moment and the time is almost here.
2020-21 NHL Opening Night
Blackhawks vs Lightning
The time of all games has yet to be announced but the defending cup champions will undoubtedly get the spotlight on 2020-21 NHL opening night. The Tampa Bay Lightning will look a lot like last year. They didn’t spend their time adding as much as they did re-signing players and made sure they stayed put. The Lightning will be missing a huge piece to their championship puzzle for this season as former Hart Trophy winner Nikita Kucherov will be sidelined with a hip injury. Even with his absents, this team is loaded and can make a run with one of the best goalies in the league, Andrei Vasilevskiy.
On the other hand, you have the Chicago Blackhawks, who are going into rebuild mode even with Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. They have some nice pieces like Alex DeBrincat, Dylan Strome, and Dominik Kubalik but that’s not enough. The Blackhawks will be missing Alex Nylander for months and Kirby Dach‘s status is up in the air. Malcolm Suban will have to be huge in net because Corey Crawford left in free agency. It’s going to be hard to find wins for the Blackhawks, especially on opening night against the Lightning
Penguins vs Flyers
What a way to start NHL opening night. A historic rivalry will be as interesting as ever with these two teams. The Pittsburgh Penguins slowed down lately, including a qualifying round loss last season, but they still aren’t a team to mess with. With Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin running the ship, the Penguins will try everything in their power to win. Jake Guentzel‘s role has increased every year and will continue to do so with every season. The defense should be alright with Kris Letang leading the way and some new additions. We’ll see how Tristan Jarry reacts as the clear number one with Matt Murray leaving in free agency.
The Philadelphia Flyers are getting better and better. They got off to a slow start last season but picked it up in a big way towards the end of the season before COVID hit. The team chemistry was starting to take shape and everyone was playing well. This team has all the tools to make a run at the Stanley Cup. After the return-to-play last season, they didn’t look the same and took a second-round exit. With guys like Sean Couturier and Travis Konecny leading the way and young goaltender Carter Hart on the rise, this team is primed to make a run at the Stanley Cup. This game will be one of the best of the 2020-21 NHL opening night.
Blues vs Avalanche
Two of the best teams in the West last season managed to stay in the same division during the realignment and now will face each other on opening night. Fresh off their first Stanley Cup in 2019, the St. Louis Blues took a first-round exit in 2020. They dealt with some tough circumstances with COVID-19 hitting the team but they’ll be the first to tell you that’s no excuse. They bring back a healthy squad minus Vladimir Tarasenko, who will be on the shelf to start the season with a shoulder injury.
The Blues will be missing their former captain Alex Pietrangelo as he left in free agency but they went out and replaced him by signing Torey Krug. New captain Ryan O’Reilly is exciting to get back out there and make another run.
On the other end of the ice, the Colorado Avalanche isn’t a team to take lightly. They have a lot of young and talented players, including one of the best players in hockey with Nathan MacKinnon. They have a lot of speed, which will be a problem for a lot of teams. Their d-core is also a problem for a lot of teams and the goaltending can shut teams down. This team is poised to make a run at the Stanley Cup and this game on 2020-21 NHL opening night will be the one to watch.
North: Montreal, Calgary, Edmonton, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Vancouver, Winnipeg
West: Anaheim, Arizona, Colorado, Los Angeles, Minnesota, San Jose, St. Louis, Vegas
Central: Carolina, Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Detroit, Florida, Nashville, Tampa Bay
East: Boston, Buffalo, New Jersey, Islanders, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Washington