One era is starting and one is re-starting as the NHL kicks off its 2021-22 season tonight with a return to ESPN and a double-header that includes the first regular season game in Seattle Kraken history.
At 7:30, the Pittsburgh Penguins take on Tampa Bay after the Lightning raise their second consecutive banner and third in team history (the Pens were the last team to repeat). Following that will be a battle between the NHL's youngest franchise and its second-youngest in the barn behind the New York-New York Casino. Like the Golden Knights of '17-'18, Seattle hopes to have major success in its inaugural season and the roster is certainly solid enough to make a run at a playoff spot, particularly in the Pacific Division.
Of course, all eyes will be on the network that last carried an NHL game in 2004. I missed that telecast.
Sean McDonough might be the best all-around play-by-play guy for hire right now. He's equally adept at any sport and I'm looking forward to hearing him call NHL games. (He called one of the greatest HRs in MLB history when Joe Carter lived out every little kid's dream of hitting a World Series-winning homer in '93). Ray Ferraro is a fantastic analyst who doesn't pull punches and is terrific at explaining all aspects of the game. Emily Kaplan (and Wysh) have re-established the dot com as a place hockey fans can get news and excellent reporting (with some fun shit as well). Kaplan's been pretty good on the TV appearances I've caught and knows the league very well so she should fit right in.
Chris Chelios, Mark Messier, and Steve Levy between periods has some wild card potential with Chelly up there. He's not shy. Speaking of Chelios...
Our guy Bucci is as excited as anyone that the NHL is back on ESPN because he's getting his first NHL PxP call in Vegas and he has a new NHL-centric show as well.
Brian Boucher was arguably the best analyst in NBC's stable the last few years and doesn't have to get sent between the benches anymore. His goalie perspective is always welcome as well. A.J. Mlezcko's will handle rinkside duties and, given her playing history, will catch things the viewer won't. Kevin Weekes and Linda Cohn will handle the late game intermission duties.
I've never been one for full playoff's predictions. I just like my futures. Pre-season. During season. Whenever. I live for Cup Futures. Also will chuck some individual trophy futures as well. I said several eps back on Chiclets to take the Isles to win the Cup because the odds were in the 25/1 range and it was crazy value. They're currently 16/1 in the BSSB and that's still good value for a team that was, arguably, within a shit goal of winning the Cup last year. Winnipeg at 40/1 is some nice value as well. They shored up their D with Nate Schmidt and Brenden Dillon and have a top-tier G in Connor Hellebuyck. The Preds window might be closing but I love Juuse Saros and will take a nibble at 90/1 for Ss&Gs. Also gonna toss nothing major on Patrik Laine at 45/1 to lead the league in goals. And finally, a couple beans on Saros at 17/1 to win Vezina.
For tonight's game, this was an easy call. Once I heard Sid and Geno were going to be out for Pittsburgh, I was already going to bet against the Pens. Then they lost Jake Guentzel as well. Then I realized they were opening in Tampa after the Lightning raises the banner. So we jumped all over Tampa Bay -0.5 regulation only -152 for a medium-sized play (this is also called the 3-way line). TB has to win the game in regulation; if the game goes to OT, you lose. But the Pens will be severely overmatched up the middle and in net as well. Tampa should cover the -1.5 but the +107 return isn't enough to entice. So we're just on regulation only.
Let's have a fucking season. Make sure to follow and read Murls.