Canadiens-Maple Leafs a classy NHL return

Jan 22, 2013 3:06 AM

Old guys rule.

It’s not just a line of clothing, gifts and other merchandise. It’s also a perfect explanation for the four-month lockout/delayed start to the NHL season.

While the early focus was on the capability of veteran goalies to carry their teams as the skaters gained their legs, the opening weekend instead saw the Over 40 set show they still have what it takes.

Heading the list is Jaromir Jagr, 40, who made his debut with the Dallas Stars something special. Jagr scored twice (giving him 667 in his Hall of Fame career) then assisted on the game-winning goal. In all, it was a 4-point effort to plunge Phoenix.

Next was Anaheim’s Teemu Selanne exploiting the revolving-door goaltending situation in Vancouver. Selanne, 42, also registered two goals and a pair of assists to smack the Canucks. It’s the first time an NHL player collected four points in a game at age 42 since Gordie Howe in February 1971 against Buffalo.

Finally, following a year away while playing in the Kontinental Hockey League, St. Louis forward Alex Kovalev netted a goal and two assists, including help on the first career goal game by Jonathan Huberdeau, the third overall selection in the 2011 draft.

If this is a betting angle, it’s pretty simple. While teams seek to find themselves playing regular season games instead of those of the exhibition variety, simply give your first look to established clubs like Chicago and Pittsburgh.

Blackhawks RW Marian Hossa is off to a hot start, while the Penguins began with early victories. Also check Minnesota (our dark horse team to overtake Vancouver in the Northwest Division).

Teams in trouble were way too obvious after the first weekend’s action, capped by terrible efforts by Phoenix and Vancouver.

Coyotes goalie Mike Smith looked nothing like his Stanley Cup Playoff performance (.943 save pct.) from last spring, while the goalie situation in B.C. is a total mess. Cory Schneider was pulled on Opening Night against the Ducks, then Day 2 saw (the soon-to-be traded?) Roberto Luongo blow a 2-0 third-period lead to rising Edmonton (still a year away).

Goalies to bet on before the line adjusts: St. Louis’ Jaroslav Halak, Buffalo’s Ryan Miller, Colorado’s Semyon Varlamov (why did Washington get rid of him?), and San Jose’s Antti Niemi.

Congrats to Wild goalie Josh Harding, who posted his first career shutout after blanking Dallas after being diagnosed with a mild form of multiple sclerosis (his sister has breast cancer, too – Ouch!)

Conversely, Detroit looked old against St. Louis in a 6-0 setback, offering goalie Jimmy Howard little assistance on the back end.

As for the New York Rangers and their 0-2 start, don’t panic. When strong teams play each other out of the gate, one has to lose. It just happened to be the Blue Shirts.

The Rangers will be fine on the scoreboard thanks to the signing of Rick Nash, which takes the pressure off Marian Gaborik, Brad Richards and others. However, constantly betting a team at -200 is not a way to get rich anyway.

Contact Nick at [email protected].

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