What an season opening! Watching the Philadelphia Flyers take on and beat the Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins and the Pittsburgh Penguins outflank the Vancouver Canucks through at least half of that game to end in a shootout made for very exciting hockey last night.
The Boston Bruins raised their 2010-2011 Stanley Cup banner in an emotional opening ceremony that included last year’s captain Mark Recchi, now retired, and illustrious alumni such as Bobby Orr and Milt Schmidt. The Bruins seemed to get off to a very good start with a score by Brad Marchand during their first power play in the first period, but that would be the Bruins only goal of the night and they would never fully regain their first period momentum. The tenor of the game changed when the Flyers, who had waited patiently in their dressing room during the long Bruins’ banner ceremony, scored two quick goals by Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek in the final minute of the first period. The Bruins power play was once again an issue and they failed to score on any of the following four power plays even though the Bruins outshot the Flyers in the third 11-4.
The Flyers’ new goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov saved 22 out of 23 shots on goal which was a great relief to Flyers’ fans who have watched their team’s painful revolving goaltender situation. For the Flyers with their new players and goalie this was sweet vindication after being eliminated by the Bruins during last season’s playoffs. Also of note, Jaromir Jagr made the NHL record books last night with his assist on Giroux’s goal — Jagr’s 1,600th NHL point.
The Vancouver Canucks lost their second consecutive season opener in a shootout. The Pittsburgh Penguins got off to a very strong start dominating the first half of the game against the struggling Vancouver Canucks with a 2-0 lead in the first period with goals by James Neal and Matt Cooke. Near the end of the first period the Canucks finally got on the board with a score by Maxim Lapierre to close the first period 2-1. Cooke scored again early in the second period to bring the score 3-1 before Keith Ballard answered late in the third to end the period 3-2. Only in the 2nd half did the Canucks begin to even resemble last season’s winning team and dominated the remainder of the game into overtime. As usual, the third period Canucks came out strong and Daniel Sedin tied the game at almost 8 minutes into the third at 3-3 which pushed the game into overtime followed by a shootout. Kris Letang and Evgeni Malkin, showing great patience, scored two beautiful goals off Roberto Luongo, winning the game for the Penguins 4-3.
After last season’s suspensions, it is nice to see Matt Cooke making a concerted effort to clean up his reputation for dangerous hits and he demonstrated that very clearly last night against his former team, the Vancouver Canucks. His notorious reputation has overshadowed the fact that he can contribute to the game in a safe manner, and to be blunt, with the new NHL rules against illegal checks, Cooke would not last long without severe suspensions which could easily end his career.