Thursday was the first seriously busy night in NHL this season. Here is what we learned:
Marc-Andre Fleury pulled himself together. He has been an awful postseason goaltender. He didn’t look great during the preseason. The loss of back-up Tomas Vokoun really put his start in focus. And he opened the season by shutting out the depleted Devils.
Radim Vrbata can still finish. And the Coyotes will still be a handful this season. With Vrbata finding chemistry with Martin Hanzal, Dave Tippett should muster a nice two-line attack.
Aleksander Barkov is the real deal. He dominated men as a 17-year-old in Europe. He gives the Panthers a whole new look. The Calder Trophy will be compelling, because Nathan MacKinnon (Avalanche) and Seth Jones (Predators) are also very, very good.
The Kings aren’t backing into this season. They banged out a 3-2 shootout victory at Minnesota. Goaltender Jonathan Quick was spotty all last season until the playoffs started. This season he looks healthy and locked in.
Jaroslav Halak has started his salary drive. He was brilliant for the Blues against the Predators. Brian Elliott better be ready to step up when his time comes.
John Tortorella has some work to do in Vancouver. The Canucks did not come out of the gate diving in front of pucks and playing desperate hockey.
FROM THE TWITTERVERSE
Here is what the pundits were writing last night:
Nick Cotsonika, Yahoo! Sports: “Gary Bettman gets booed. In Glendale. Geez. The guy got cheered in Winnipeg.”
James Mirtle, Globe and Mail: “Barkov is going to be a beast for Florida, isn't he?”
Adrian Dater, Denver Post: “Preds are losing, but Seth Jones has looked pretty good to me.”
Dan Rosen, NHL.com: “Remember, Halak and Elliott can be UFAs after the season. Like I said, I think Halak has a huge year, Blues lock him up, let Elliott go.”
James Mirtle, Globe and Mail: “Poor Calgary. At least Brian Burke's rebuild will be interesting.”
John Buccigross, ESPN.com: “NHL officials obviously been told when in doubt, call a penalty shot. I'm OK with that. Televises well. Out of your seat moment either way.”