Tuesday, 12 October 2021

The First Is Known

After watching the Sidney Crosby-less and Evgeni Malkin-less Pittsburgh Penguins dismantle the Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning following their banner raising for the second season in a row, the biggest excitement of the night was the late game on the NHL's Opening Night as the Vegas Golden Knights hosted the expansion Seattle Kraken in their very first game in NHL history. Vegas won their opening game on the road in Dallas four seasons ago, so could Seattle follow the same story and win their opener against a very good Golden Knights squad?

Things didn't get off to a flying start for the Squid Squad as Max Pacioretty put Vegas up 1-0 just 3:10 into the game. Adding to the not-so-good start was Jonathan Marchessault who double the lead just 3:26 later. Perhaps there were some "first game nerves" being shown by Philipp Grubauer on opening night?

After going down 3-0 on a second Pacioretty goal at 6:43 of the second period, there was some history made when Ryan Donato got free in front of the net and found the puck just outside the crease. The official scoring play, for those asking, is Ryan Donato from Vince Dunn and Joonas Donskoi who beat Robin Lehner at 11:32 of the second period on October 12, so get your Seattle Kraken jerseys customized with #9 Donato as the kid from Scituate, Massachusetts put his name into the NHL record books permanently with the first Kraken goal in NHL history!

History aside, there was still a game to be decided, and the Kraken struck again quicly after Donato added his name to the historical records. Jared McCann scored 1:08 after Donato, and it was quickly a 3-2 game between the two newest NHL teams. Perhaps this trend of expansion teams winning their first-ever games on the road would continue tonight.

Morgan Geekie - the kid from Strathclair, Manitoba! - scored his first Kraken goal at 7:58 of the third period to tie the game at 3-3, and suddenly it felt very real that Seattle may shock the world for at least one night, if not more nights as the season goes on. However, Vegas' Chandler Stephenson would score 35 seconds after Geekie tied the game, and that 4-3 margin would end up being the final score as Vegas survived a Kraken attack on this night.

Overall, ESPN's coverage of this game was more about nostalgia than new innovations, but I thought both AJ Mleczko and Brian Boucher did a great job with analysis just as they did with NBC last season, and John Buccigross was fairly consistent in his play-by-play broadcast. If this is the effort that ESPN is going to make on a nightly basis, I'd say the NHL's decision to dump NBC and head to ESPN will work out nicely for both parties.

What should be known after one night is that the Kraken will compete this season. In what is seen as a relatively weak Pacific Division, the Kraken could make some noise if they can take wins off divisional opponents while adding points in the rest of their division. No one is guaranteeing them the same success that Vegas had with a Stanley Cup berth in their inaugural season, but it's not like it hasn't been done before with some hard work, determination, a splash of skill, and a little luck.

For the first night of NHL action for the 2021-22 season, we saw the champs lose, an expansion team test one of the teams most pundits feel are the best in the west, and Ryan Donato wrote his name into NHL lore. I'd say that was a pretty good night of hockey action!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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