NHL old guys, rookies steal the show on goal-filled opening night

Wow.  What an opening night.  Of course I was only able to watch one game – Pittsburgh v Philadelphia – but having viewed the highlights for each game it struck me as the kind of night you’d expect from players who by-and-large haven’t played in 9 months or so: adrenaline and excitement to be playing again resulting in goals-galore, but also sloppy defending due to the long layoff and subsequent rust.

The real stars of this night were the veterans – and I mean the real veterans, the guys approaching the tail-end of their careers – and the rookies.  Amongst the highlights:

JAROMIR JAGR – it’s quite unbelievable that in a 19 season, 1347 game NHL career with 665 goals and 1653 points having played for four different NHL teams, that the four points (2G, 2A) Jagr registered last night were the first four points he’d ever registered whilst playing for a Western Conference team, having signed with Dallas in the offseason.  Now in his 20th season at the age of 40, Jagr astounded everybody by increasing his career totals to 667 goals and 1657 points with a display of pure skill and class, being a part of every Dallas goal scored against Phoenix.

RAY WHITNEY – Whitney really has had quite the career, going from being the cast-off of two NHL teams before finally becoming a quality NHL scorer, who has defied the odds to actually becoming better and better as he gets older.  Now 40, he put up 77 points last year for Phoenix, and registered 2 points (1G, 1A) last night in his first game for Dallas, again showing no signs of slowing down.

MARIAN HOSSA – the 34 year old superstar forward displayed his full range of skills as he put up 2 goals and an assist in Chicago’s 5-2 route of the defending Champion LA Kings.  With 907 points in 979 NHL games, Hossa is one of the stars of the modern era NHL whilst quietly going about his business.

MARTIN ST. LOUIS – registered 2 goals and an assist in Tampa Bay’s 6-3 drubbing of Washington.  He’s 37 years old, yet the undrafted right-winger now has 855 points in 932 NHL games, totals that figure to be even higher by the time he calls it quits.

CORY CONACHER – the 23 year old undrafted centre, who was a standout for Canisius College of the NCAA, played his first NHL game last night, scoring 1 goal and 1 assist.  Not bad for a guy who bounced around a bit, not sticking with 2 AHL teams and an ECHL team before finally getting a chance with Tampa’s AHL team in Norfolk last year, on an AHL only contract, and surprised with 80 points in 75 games, enough to earn him a full NHL contract.  One to watch for sure.

JONATHAN HUBERDEAU – the former junior star played in his long-awaited first NHL game last night at the age of 19.  The 3rd Overall pick in the 2011 draft scored the Panthers’ first goal of the year and assisted on 2 more for a stunning 3 point debut.  The young center should be an NHL star before long.

ALEX KOVALEV – long known as something of a mystery to many people, given his unbelievable skills and talent but questionable “desire” or passion, Kovalev didn’t let anybody down in his return to the NHL for the Panthers after one season away in the KHL.  The 39 year old showed off his stunning puck-handling by putting up 1 goal and 2 assists.

VLADIMIR TARASENKO – long heralded, along with fellow Russian and Washington prospect Evgeny Kuznetzov, to be among the next-generation of Russian hockey stars, Tarasenko made his much-anticipated NHL debut for the St Louis Blues – a talented team but much in need of someone of his offensive flair – and man oh man did he make a splash.  St Louis royally thumped the Red Wings 6-0, and Tarasenko’s 2 stunning goals led the way.  Watch out for this 21 year old, he will be a major force in this league.

DANY HEATLEY – ok, so he’s not “at the end tail-end of his career”, but he’s still a 10 year NHL veteran and 31 years old, and he was a force in Minnesota’s game against Colorado last night putting up 2 goals.  The much maligned Heatley showed he still has some spark left in his game, let’s hope he can keep it up for the rest of the season.  With the addition of Zach Parise, he’s no longer the sole star forward for the team so the pressure should be off somewhat.

TEEMU SELANNE – the eternally beloved Selanne wowed fans with a four point night – 2 goals and 2 assists – at the tender age of 42.  Last night was his 1342nd NHL game, and he raised his point totals to a staggering 1410.  This may be his last season in the NHL, but by lord I hope he does return.

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