Countdown to Puck Drop- What to Watch for This Season

Countdown to Puck Drop- What to Watch for This Season

NHL

Countdown to Puck Drop- What to Watch for This Season

By

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

In 18 short days from now, four teams will begin their quest for Lord Stanley’s Cup. Opening night features the Pittsburgh Penguins traveling to Tampa Bay for the Lightning’s second consecutive banner night. Then, the Seattle Kraken play in its inaugural game in Las Vegas against the NHL’s 31st team, the Golden Knights. I will be breaking down each division in a series of articles in the coming weeks but there are a few overarching themes to watch for this season.

What to expect from the Seattle Kraken

The first thing to keep an eye on is the performance of the NHL’s newest member. After its opening night game in a hostile T-Mobile Arena, the Kraken will play four more road games in the eastern half of the country before finally heading home. If your calendars are not marked for Saturday, October 23, then you better go do it now. The first-ever home game in franchise history should provide an electric atmosphere, especially against the neighboring Vancouver Canucks. The Kraken will also have a chance to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs due to a weak Pacific Division.

Can anyone stop the Metro Division?

The Metropolitan Division has consistently been the strongest division in hockey for good six-to-seven years now. During that time, the division has won three Cups and put five teams in the playoffs five times in that span. This year will be no exception as the Metro is stacked once again. Pittsburgh, Washington, Carolina, both New York teams, and even Philadelphia have playoff aspirations. Both the division crown and the final two playoff spots should come down to the final week of the season and will provide some entertaining hockey until the bitter end.

Why is there a three-week break in February?

The NHL is headed back to the Olympics! The season will be put on pause in the first few days of February as players will travel to Beijing, China until February 20 to play for a chance to win the gold medal. Olympic hockey always has a playoff-type atmosphere and should be extremely entertaining. The season will resume after the games and the normal, 82-game schedule will come to an end in early May.

The NHL has a new TV deal

The NHL ended its decade-long partnership with the NBC family of networks and will now be exclusively featured on ESPN’s family of networks which included ABC, as well as a broadcasting rights partnership with TNT. ESPN was able to bring over many broadcasters and in-game hosts from NBC to lead its new hockey coverage, but it also hired a number of former players to color commentate. Some former players to become analysts include Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, and Kevin Weeks. The new deal also keeps the beloved Wednesday Night Hockey on the slate and features a line-up of “Push for the Playoffs” games on Sunday afternoons during the last two months of the season.

Other Special Dates 

The NHL is headed outdoors for the 14th straight season as multiple games are scheduled to be played without a roof. The 2022 Winter Classic will be held at Target Field in Minnesota between the Wild and Blues on New Year’s Day. Outdoor hockey will be headed down south once again. The Tampa Bay Lightning will be visiting the Nashville Predators on February 26 at Nissan Stadium. The Heritage Classic will also make a return in 2022. The Toronto Maple Leafs are rumored to host the Buffalo Sabres sometime in March. The NHL All-Star game is headed to Las Vegas, while the 2022 NHL Draft will be held in Montreal, after the season. 

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