The first post-lockout season started Wednesday, which means yesterday was the first episode of Hockey Night in Canada in a loooong time (Movie Night in Canada kinda sucked.) It was also my first look at the new NHL, and my friends, it looks sweet.
Montreal beat the Leafs 5-4 (hey Eskimo Bill, Sundin lasted what, seven minutes?) in the quick paced first game. The second game was another all Canadian affair – Vancouver @ Edmonton. It looked like Vancouver was gonna eke out a 3-2 win when Ohlund flipped the puck over the boards, getting a penalty in the process (this is one of the new rules.) Edmonton threw six guys out for the power play and managed to tie it up with 23 seconds left. Overtime solved nothing, so I got to see a shootout, something I was looking forward to. They cleaned the ice for the shootout so that the players had a good surface to make things happen. Edmonton won when Torres and Hemsky scored (while Naslund and Bertuzzi were stoned), putting an exclamation point on the new look.
The commentators made a good observation that unlike last year, when fans started streaming out of the building during overtimes, everybody stuck around to see the shootout. Maybe the NHL is onto something.
For what it’s worth, I think that the new two line pass, the bigger offensive zone, and the obstruction crackdown have made for a far more exciting game. There were a few penalties that would’ve been strategies last year, and I think the rule changes will keep the game exciting even if the referees get lax on obstruction later in the season.
I have to say, I’m really glad hockey’s back, and so far even I am finding it difficult to be cynical (unless I’m talking about the Flames – 1-2 and outscored 13-9 after three games — ouch.) Just taking a look at some of the scores last night (8-1, 7-6, 5-4) makes me really look forward to what’s coming. Death to the trap!