The 2019-20 regular season is finally upon us!
There’s four games on the opening-night schedule, including a doubleheader on NBCSN (Capitals vs. Blues at 6:30 p.m. ET and Sharks vs. Golden Knights at 10:30 p.m. ET). One game doesn’t make or break a season, but there are certain things to look out for when the schedule begins tonight.
Here are three storylines we’ll be keeping an eye on during tonight’s games:
• Are the Ottawa Senators the worst team in the NHL?
The Senators were the worst team in the NHL last year by a considerable margin. That’s what happens when you move on from players like Mark Stone, Erik Karlsson and Matt Duchene. Ottawa finished with just 64 points last year, which put them in the basement of the NHL standings. The team directly ahead of them was the Los Angeles Kings and they finished with 71 points.
The Sens have some good pieces in place like Brady Tkachuk, Colin White, Thomas Chabot, Erik Brannstrom and a few others, but how long will it take them to be competitive? Given some of the size and grit on the current roster, it’s important to note that they probably won’t be easy out. They’ll be in your face, they’ll make life difficult for you, but they probably won’t win many games.
Ottawa gets their biggest rival tonight, the Toronto Maple Leafs. We’ll find out if they can push the Leafs and if they can be one of the big surprises in the league.
• Can Jordan Binnington pick up where he left off?
The Blues made what seemed like an improbable run to their first Stanley Cup championship last year. They did so on the back of Ryan O'Reilly and Jordan Binnington. Nobody’s worried about O’Reilly’s ability to perform, but there are some questions when it comes to Binnington’s outlook. Can he continue being a strong number one goalie at the NHL level on a nightly basis? He’s no longer an unknown commodity around the league.
The Blues paid him during the off-season, as the two sides agreed to a two-year, $8.8 million extension. The 26-year-old has a tough act to follow. He finished last season with a 24-5-1 record, a 1.89 goals-against-average and a .927 save percentage.
It’s going to be tough to follow that up. It all starts against the Capitals tonight.
• How lonely will Connor McDavid be this year?
Earlier this week, McDavid was skating on a line with James Neal and Tomas Jurco during practice, which means Leon Draisaitl was on another unit. There’s no reason to believe McDavid can’t perform next to anybody, but the sad state of the Oilers is apparent when you look at the wingers they have on their roster. No disrespect to Neal, who has had a strong career, but he’s coming off a seven-goal, 19-point season in Calgary. As for Jurco, he was limited to just 33 games in the AHL last season.
Again, McDavid doesn’t depend on his wingers to produce, but it would be nice for him to get some help whenever he’s on the ice. General manager Ken Holland has a lot of work to do to improve this roster. The fact that the high-end talent is already in place within the organization is good news, but the supporting cast needs to be blown up in a hurry.
Can McDavid drag the Oilers into the playoffs? They open the season at home against the Vancouver Canucks.