NHL Opening Weekend: Goaltending Recap And A Few Bold Predictions

It’s been two days since the start of the NHL season and the biggest storyline seems to be goaltending. Four of the league’s most elite goaltenders were pulled on opening day, including Henrik Lundvist, Jimmy Howard, Cam Ward, and the all-too-ironic Cory Schneider. In addition to the goalies that were pulled, Jonathan Quick let up five goals, something that only happened a handful of times last season, and Mike Smith gave up six to the Chicago Blackhawks, causing the following tantrum:

Via Puck Daddy

It’s evident that goalies are the ones who suffered the most throughout the lockout. With no preseason, it will likely take a few games for them to get back into the swing of things. However, Josh Harding of the Minnesota Wild posted a shutout in his first game since being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. This is going to be an awesome storyline to follow this season, especially now that Minnesota has all the pieces it needs to be a Stanley Cup contender.

A few bold predictions (because it’s two days into the season and over-analysis is at an all-time high):

  • If everyone can stay healthy, the Edmonton Oilers will make the playoffs for the first time since 2006. Aside from the incredible young talent up front in Eberle, Hall, Gagner, Yakupov, and a healthy Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, the Oilers finally have some depth on defense with rookie Justin Schultz. Devan Dubnyk is the real question mark for this team. He was great in the shootout last night vs. the Vancouver Canucks, but needs to be consistent if he wants to take over the # 1 spot. Nikolai Khabibulin is a good alternative, but he’s 40 years old… the Oilers need to know if Dubnyk can be the # 1 guy moving forward.
  • Roberto Luongo will not be traded (but probably should be). Having two # 1 goaltenders is certainly not the worst problem to have, but when you’re paying one of them close to $7 million for the 2013 season, it might be worth taking a chance on the other one. There are plenty of other teams that could highly benefit from the services of Roberto Luongo, but it seems as though the Canucks aren’t as concerned with getting rid of Luongo as the media is. Canucks GM Mike Gillis told ESPN.com, “It’s a completely media-driven notion that we have to do this quickly and it’s going to be a terrible situation [if Luongo starts the season in Vancouver]. It wasn’t a terrible situation last year and it won’t be this year if he’s here.”
  • The Red Wings will barely make the playoffs and lose in the first round. I want to predict that they will miss the playoffs altogether, but it wouldn’t be very wise to bet against Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg. Jimmy Howard will need to have a career season in net and learn what it’s like to play without Nick Lidstrom in front of him. He’ll be seeing a lot more shots than he’s used to.
  • Sidney Crosby will suffer a career-ending concussion. Just kidding.
  • Patrick Kane will stay out of trouble and have his best season yet. Everyone knows Patrick Kane to be one of the best partiers players around the league, but we certainly haven’t seen the best of him. Kane admits that he is more focused on hockey now than he was on Cinco de Mayo and at 24 years old, he will stop passing out in bars. At a press conference in July, Kane told the world, “I want to be somebody who can be a role model to kids and to everyone, for that matter.”
  • The Pittsburgh Penguins will win the Stanley Cup.