NHL opening week sees rise in scoring, excitement

Oct 15, 2002 1:40 AM

   Through the first week of the NHL season, the league brass is getting just what it wished. Scoring is up and so are the penalties.

   Refs famed for swallowing their whistles in the final minutes of third periods are not only making calls, but extending their sudden bravery to overtime sessions.

   The result is an abundance of OVER contests, which most experts expected.

   “Tighter refs means more power play chances and that will definitely have an impact on totals,” Las Vegas Sports Consultants hockey analyst Scott Ramsey said prior to the season opener last Tuesday.

   Since that time, half of the 30 franchises are allowing at least three goals per game. When the average OVER / UNDER line is 5 to 5 ½, that translates into a favorable monetary play.

   So far the teams most affected by the scoring rise are Stanley Cup conteners Carolina and San Jose.

   The Hurricanes, surprise Eastern Conference champs a year ago, have allowed 12 goals in a 1-2 start through Sunday’s action. San Jose, who Ramsey billed as his Stanley Cup choice, has issued 11 goals in the first two games. Of course, No. 1 goalie Nabakov holding out hasn’t helped that situation.

   The New York Rangers, following a 4-0 opening night win at Carolina, yielded 11 goals in its next two games.

   Not every team is lacking defense. New Jersey, Buffalo, Washington, Vancouver Los Angeles, Tampa Bay and Dallas allowed a combined 25 goals in 15 games.

   Buffalo may be the biggest early surprise, jumping off to a solid start when figuring to be a divided team due to ownership problems and sudden lack of fan support.

   Our opening night pick of Calgary against Vancouver was a bust, but we’ll press on with some Tuesday selections.

Florida at Minnesota

The Wild gets little exposure, but this recent expansion team is tough at home. MINNY.

Edmonton at Dallas

The Stars and Oilers usually have some wild games. Turco has been stellar in goal. DALLAS.

Phoenix at Ottawa

Tough assignment for visiting Coyotes. Senators tough to beat at home. OTTAWA.