It was an entertaining first Tuesday of the National Hockey League season, as there were six games and a total of 42 goals. The night wasn't all about the offense, however, as we also had a goaltender toss up a shutout against a very good team on the road in the Western Conference. I was able to take in the game between the Vancouver Canucks and Carolina Hurricanes…the first-place Hurricanes, by the way…and then I had a doubleheader on the ice with my C League team in Cary, N.C. That was a first. Let's just say the Hurricanes fared a little better, too. Let's get started!
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Carolina Hurricanes 5, Vancouver Canucks 3
Let's start off with the game I can tell you the most about personally. First off, Sebastian Aho is going to be a star, and if he played in a bigger market a lot more people would know about him already. He bagged a goal while adding an assist and a plus-1 rating in this game, giving the 21-year-old at least one point in all four games so far this season. That's two goals and four assists with a plus-4 rating through four games, and he had the game-winning tally on Oct. 5 in Columbus. Andrei Svechnikov is also a star in the making, tallying a goal for the second straight game, giving him two goals and four points in four games overall. Teuvo Teravainen and Jaccob Slavin also posted multi-point games, as each tallied two assists with a plus-1 rating in the victory. Backup Curtis McIlhenny was good enough, letting in three goals on 25 shots for his second win in as many outings.
On the Vancouver side of the ledger, Sven Baertschi was very impressive, picking up an even-strength goal, a power-play goal and an assist with two blocked shots and a hit to make his small throng of fantasy owners smile. Alexander Edler also showed up with a pair of assists, four blocked shots and two hits while picking up a minor penalty in his 24:14 of ice time. The veteran rearguard has four assists over his past two games, three of them coming on the man advantage. Unfortunately, Baertschi, Edler and Bo Horvat, who scored on the power play, were not able to do enough to mask to shaky play of Jacob Markstrom, who yielded five goals on just 33 shots in the road loss.
San Jose Sharks 8, Philadelphia Flyers 2
There were a ton of fantasy stars for the visiting Sharks, including multi-goal performances by Evander Kane and Joe Pavelski. Kane has fired out of the box with four goals through four games, including his first power-play marker in this one. He also posted a season-best plus-3 rating while logging seven shots. Kane continues to be very aggressive, squeezing off four shots in each of his four contests. Pavelski's fantasy owners were wringing their hands after three scoreless games to open the season, but he more than made up for it with his pair of goals while posting a plus-2 rating. He also was credited with the game-winning tally. In the assist department, it was all Kevin Labanc all the time. He rolled up four helpers with an impressive plus-4 rating and three blocked shots in 16:10 of ice time, giving him his first multi-point game of the season in style. Erik Karlsson and Marc-Edouard Vlasic chipped in with two helpers, providing Aaron Dell more than enough support in between the pipes. The netminder stopped 31 of the 33 shots he faced, including seven shorthanded saves.
The cupboard wasn't totally bare on the Philly side for fantasy stars, although there were a few ugly plus/minus ratings. Claude Giroux ended up with a minus-2, but he did pocket a pair of helpers with a minor penalty in 18:36 of ice time. Wayne Simmonds was also a multi-point performer, posting a goal with an assist while dishing out two hits. Shayne Gostisbehere went for a goal on a team-high six shots while taking 24 shifts in 18:45 of ice time. It wasn't a great fantasy performance for Brian Elliott, who coughed up eight goals on 48 shots to take the L.
Columbus Blue Jackets 5, Colorado Avalanche 2
Nick Foligno was a busy beaver in the team's home victory, picking up two goals with an assist and a plus-2 rating while blocking two shots with a minor penalty. He wasn't the only big performer, however, as Alexander Wennberg was good for a pair of assist and a plus-3 rating. After taking a loss against the Hurricanes over the weekend, Sergei Bobrovsky was back at the top of his game by stopping 25 of the 27 shots he faced to redeem himself in front of the home folks. Josh Anderson, Pierre-Luc Dubois and Artemi Panarin also flicked the switch for goals in the home victory. Markus Nutivaara was also very involved, logging his second assist in three games with a career-best seven SOG.
It was not a great debut for Philipp Grubauer in an Avalanche sweater, as he was tagged for four goals on 34 shots in the loss. The 26-year-old is jockeying for the starting job with incumbent Semyon Varlamov, but he'll need to do much better than this to unseat the veteran. Nathan MacKinnon picked up a goal for the third consecutive game to open the season, giving him three goals with an assist to date. Carl Soderberg also came through with a power-play marker, as he has points in all three of his contests so far. In addition, Soderberg has notched at least one power-play point in each of his three tilts.
Calgary Flames 3, Nashville Predators 0
As mentioned above, it wasn't all about the offense on this night. Mike Smith stood on his head all evening stopping anything that the Predators threw at him. The veteran turned aside all 43 of the shots he faced to notch his 37th career shutout. It was a relief to his fantasy owners, as Smith has been tagged for eight goals in a home-and-home against the Canucks. It appears all he needed was to be more involved, as he faced just 42 totals shots in the first two starts. Elias Lindholm and Sean Monahan notched power-play goals, and Monahan added an even-strength marker and that was all Smith needed. Johnny Gaudreau picked up three assists with a plus-1 rating in 22:23 of ice time, as Johnny Hockey has back-to-back three-point games and a total of seven points (1 G, 6 A) through three contests.
Pekka Rinne allowed just three goals on 27 shots, but his offense couldn't get it by Smith. It wasn't for lack of trying, as Craig Smith picked up five shots on goal with a blocked shot and a hit. P.K. Subban was also very willing to sacrifice his body, picking up four blocked shots with a hit and a minor penalty while Mattias Ekholm was able to step in front of three shots. That's about it from a positive fantasy perspective for the Preds, however.
Toronto Maple Leafs 7, Dallas Stars 4
The Toronto Maple Leafs are going to be a fun team to watch this season, win or lose. And while they aren't going to be leading the NHL in defensive statistics anytime soon, they have decided to just bludgeon people offensively. Auston Matthews and John Tavares are proving there is more than enough puck to go around in Hogtown, picking up two goals each in the three-goal victory. Matthews, a.k.a. The Big Cactus, has multi-point performances in all four of his games to date, picking up seven goals with 10 points to wow his fantasy owners. In case you're doing the math, Matthews is on pace for 144 goals and 205 points. It's unlikely he'll continue at that pace. Ha. Tavares, the big-ticket addition in the offseason, has come home to Ontario and notched six goals with a plus-3 rating in his first four outings, including power-play goals in each of the past two. Mitchell Marner got into the scoring parade, adding a goal with four points and a blocked shot in 18:49 of ice time. Marner has logged three straight multi-point games, posting two goals with six assists and a plus-3 rating overall. Frederik Andersen wasn't perfect, but he did make 30 saves while allowing four goals to pick up the win.
The big fantasy performances weren't limited to the Leafs in this one. Tyler Seguin, posted his second straight four-point game with a goal and three assists. After going scoreless against the Coyotes on Oct. 4, Seguin has managed three goals with eight points over the past two, including a power-play goal and two helpers on the man advantage. Alexander Radulov also got into the act with a goal and three points, and he has lit the lamp in all three of his games so far while tallying back-to-back three-point games. He also has at least one power-play assist in each of the past two outings. It wasn't a memorable day for Ben Bishop, as he was tagged for six goals on just 29 shots to take the loss.
Winnipeg Jets 2, Los Angeles Kings 1
The Kings didn't throw a lot of rubber at Connor Hellebuyck, and they were only able to beat him once. Ilya Kovalchuk opened the scoring with an even-strength marker to give L.A. a short-lived lead, but Mark Scheifele tied it back up just 4:33 later to send the Jets into the room with a 1-1 tie. Kyle Connor picked up his third goal of the season midway through the second period on a power play and that stood up as the game-winning tally against Jack Campbell. The former No. 11 overall pick by the Stars in 2010 allowed two goals on 39 shots to more than handle himself against the high-octane Jets, but it still wasn't enough.