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What We Learned: Stop jumping to gullible conclusions about NHL

Ryan Lambert
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Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend's events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.

I think most people out there should know by now that the first one, two or even three games of a hockey season don't really tell you very much about how the team is going to do.

But the problem is that a new hockey season is very easy to get wrapped up in. The Sabres win two games in a row, scoring four in each and allowing just three total? It's a sound justification of the spending spree this summer and perhaps evidence that they will live up to the hype. Phil Kessel has four points in a game? He might finally rip up the NHL this year, finally evolving into elite goalscorer instead of consistent 30-goal man.

Reality is, of course, quite a bit different.

Let's take the previous two examples. Playing hockey in Europe at the start of the season is a very strange way to begin your quest for a Stanley Cup, and often, results earned there aren't necessarily indicative of future events.

Those games, they say, take their toll on a team — there is one hell of a lot of travel involved, after all — and to draw conclusions from those games, and the fact that announce crews spent the weekend pointing out that the Bruins, Blackhawks and Penguins have all started their seasons there before winning the Stanley Cup, is hopeful at best and closer to foolish.

In actuality, the Bruins, Blackhawks and Penguins were all excellent teams on paper, and would have been in for successful runs if they'd started the season in Europe, their home rinks or on the moon. The closest thing to a great NHL team in Northern Europe this weekend was the one the Sabres handed a 4-2 loss on Saturday.

Meanwhile, any sizable statistical outings enjoyed by players were more likely the result of circumstance than reasonable expectations. Given that the NHL season kicked off on Thursday, we'd already suffered through enough jokes about anyone who had a pair of points or more in their team's opening game was on pace for record production — a tradition as tired as dubbing any sequel to be subtitled "Electric Boogaloo" — and the weekend was no different. Phil Kessel and David Legwand, who both had four points on Saturday, are as like to crack 100 points this season as Jose Theodore is to maintain his perfect save percentage and GAA.

This weekend only gave us the first brushstrokes across the canvas of another NHL season. Teams will start the season cold as ice or hot as hell and, in the end, it will all come out in the wash.

(Coming Up: Forsberg's number retired for now; the Bruins celebrate the Cup … again; Cory Sarich blows up Matt Cooke; beauty goals for Anze Kopitar and Brad Richards; Columbus coach doesn't know baseball; Parros' twin pressures; the Coyotes give up 52 shots; Evgeni Malkin plays the agitator; sick save by Thomas; Winnipeg's return; Mike Green's defense; and the scariest part of the Islanders.)

With very few exceptions, teams most people who think reasonably about the sport expect to make the playoffs end up being the ones that do. The Rangers pulled a mere two points and no wins from their opening games with Los Angeles and Anaheim, but at the end of the season, they'll almost certainly prove to have been a pretty safe bet to compete in their division.

Even the bad teams, and there are some truly dreadful ones, won't be as bad as, say, Ottawa, has been so far. Porous though their defense and goaltending may be, the current team stats of a 5.51 GAA and .851 save percentage will literally be impossible to maintain.

The Jets, too, won't get blown out of their own building by teams with little offensive depth every night in perpetuity. Nor will their fans be quite so fervent in support for what was an absolute dud of a season-opening effort.

The problem with sports fans the world over is that they let micro performance dictate how they feel about macro results. This early in the season, it's not easier to understand; they have far less to go on, obviously, when forming opinions. But still, that type of early-season confirmation bias shouldn't really enter into the way you feel about a team, division, conference or league.

Most teams have 80 of these things to go. Let's try to keep it realistic and reasonable at least until the All-Star break.

What We Learned

Anaheim Ducks: George Parros, fresh off beating the hell out of Mike Rupp, hurried off the plane when it landed in Anaheim, because his wife gave birth to twins while the team was in Finland.

Boston Bruins: The Bruins got their first win of the season on Saturday and then brought the Stanley Cup to Foxboro for the Pats game. Fortunately, this will be the last chance the Bruins have to wave the Cup over their head, as the team's stewardship of it will soon end.

Buffalo Sabres: After winning his first two games of the season, Ryan Miller didn't start wildly pointing fingers at his defensemen. In fact, he praised them. It's a Columbus Day and/or Thanksgiving Weekend miracle!

Calgary Flames: Red light hit on Matt Cooke by Cory Sarich. No discipline for it. As it should be.

Carolina Hurricanes: Jussi Jokinen on the 'Canes 4-3 overtime loss to Washington: "I liked how we played. It was two good hockey teams out there." Might wanna double check that math, buddy.

Chicago Blackhawks: This just in -- if you hold the puck more than your opponent (and you're the Blackhawks, and you're playing the Stars), you have a really good chance of winning hockey games.

Colorado Avalanche: The Avalanche retired Peter Forsberg's jersey on Saturday, meaning he is now limited to just two more embarrassing comeback attempts.

Columbus Blue Jackets: "We want to talk about getting hit from behind and shots to the head, but we allow a guy to stay in the game after taking a baseball swing at a guy's face? That's a joke," says Scott Arniel. I don't know what baseball leagues Arniel watches where the video below constitutes anything beyond a bunt.

Also not sure how this gets a two-game suspension but there ya go.

Dallas Stars: The Stars lost, and coach and player alike weren't sure of the exact reason. Wait this subsection says, "Raycroft gets first start since Feb. 19." Four goals allowed on 30 shots. Mystery solved.

Detroit Red Wings Presented by Amway: The Red Wings are holding a Breast Cancer Awareness Night on Oct. 21 in a game against the Blue Jackets so if you're in the area go and donate, eh? Silent auction, 50/50, the whole thing. Go help 'em out.

Edmonton Oilers: Tom Gilbert is "expected to carry the load" defensively which is a very bad thing if you're Devan Dubynk.

Florida Panthers: Jose Theodore pitched a shutout in his first game for the Panthers, and the team got first-period goals from Stephen Weiss and Jason Garrison. Pretty amazing considering the roster featured FOURTEEN new players when compared to last year's opening night lineup. Even if they did only play the Islanders.

Los Angeles Kings: Gotta think LA will be happy with three points from their two European games. Plus Anze Kopitar has three goals in those games, including this beauty right here.

Minnesota Wild: Dany Heatley set up the opening goal and added the winner himself in his first game for the Wild, which went about as well as he could have hoped.

Montreal Canadiens: A million people on the Canadiens are injured. Yup, it's hockey season!

Nashville Predators: Used to be that Kevin Klein got held back in the defensive zone so his partner can create offense, but the coaches talked to him about stepping up his attacking game as well. So he went out and scored a game-winning goal and helped the Preds improve to 2-0-0 on the year. Nashville really is a defenseman factory.

New Jersey Devils: Anyone who saw any of the Devils' season-opening 3-0 loss to the Flyers knows that the picture in this article is pretty much indicative of what went on there.

New York Islanders: The Islanders didn't look good in their season opener but the top power play unit has the look of a scary group once they round into form.

New York Rangers: Brad Richards just threw his hat into the ring for mayor of Snipe City.

Hoo boy that's a shot.

Ottawa Senators: Ottawa opens its home schedule on Tuesday against Minnesota. That means Dany Heatley will be in the building. Should be a treat for Sens fans.

Philadelphia Flyers: Well that's one to keep your players even when you put 'em on waivers. The Flyers got Blair Betts back from Montreal because he's hurt.

Phoenix Coyotes: The season opener against San Jose wasn't very pretty. "It was embarrassing," said Shane Doan. And it wasn't just the goaltending. Yeah, Mike Smith gave up six goals, but that was on 52 shots. Fifty-two. No one would look good under that kinda fire.

Pittsburgh Penguins: Evgeni Malkin had two points in as many games to open the season, trying to cover for Sid Crosby's lost production, but, also proved he's a great leader by trying to cover Matt Cooke's PIMs and agitating.

San Jose Sharks: Andrew Desjardins had a pretty good night, scoring his second and third career goals in the second period and effectively putting the game to rest. And his second goal came after he got absolutely drilled from behind by Martin Hanzal.

St. Louis Blues: David Perron sure as heck didn't play in Saturday's home opener but he got a bigger cheer than anything else that happened that night just for showing up. Poor guy hasn't played in 10 months, but he's getting there.

Tampa Bay Lightning: Dwayne Roloson got spelled on the second game of a back-to-back, but that doesn't mean he skipped the optional morning skate before it. He was one of only four players to show up. What great drive from a guy who turns 42 Wednesday.

Toronto Maple Leafs: In which Dion Phaneuf welcomes Stephane Da Costa to the National Hockey League.

Vancouver Canucks: Marco Sturm didn't have a strong opening game but critics who think it has to do with his complete and appalling lack of speed are wrong. It's more about learning the system, getting used to his teammates and the fact that he can't skate fast any mo… oh, right.

Washington Capitals: Mike Green wants to stop being thought of as an offense-only defenseman and play more comprehensively in his own zone. Well buddy, scoring the overtime game-winner is no way to shed your reputation is it? Think the game, Greenie.

Winnipeg Jets: No matter what you think of the Jets, this is a great bit of writing.

Gold Star Award

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Big thanks to the Canadiens for blowing the Jets out of the building in their first game in Winnipeg.
Minus of the Weekend

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Raise your hand if you're shocked to see more "give Canada more teams that currently play in the American south FOR THE GOOD OF THE GAME!!!!" schlock from the Canadian media. No? No one? Yeah.

Play of the Weekend
This was a pretty decent save by Tim Thomas I would say.

Perfect HFBoards Trade Proposal of the Week

You'll be shocked to learn that user "DallasStarsfan06" is, in fact, a Dallas Stars fan.

To Tampa Bay:
Jamie Oleksiak
Jack Campbell
Trevor Daley
2012 2nd Round Pick

To Dallas:
Victor Hedman
Carter Ashton

Signoff
Don't bully me, Daniel!

Ryan Lambert publishes hockey awesomeness rather infrequently over at The Two-Line Pass. Check it out, why don't you? Or you can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter if you so desire.

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