1. Mika Zibanejad, Rangers
If there’s a single player whose recent work has been lost in the shuffle of New York’s recent plummet, it’s Zibanejad. It’s still kind of hard to believe that the Senators really traded him for Derick Brassard.
There was a lot of scoring in New York’s home win against Winnipeg, and while Artemi Panarin had a nice debut, Zibanejad led the way, scoring one goal and three assists. He also fired seven shots on goal and even blocked two shots.
This could be a big season for Zibanejad, one that makes it impossible to ignore his brilliance — even if the Rangers experience a lot of peaks and valleys.
Fittingly, a lot of other players had big nights in that slugfest, including Jacob Trouba against his former team. Trouba generated a goal and two assists, managing three SOG and two blocked shots.
2. Nikolaj Ehlers, Jets
Good thing Winnipeg didn’t lose this guy in the offseason, as Ehlers topped a lot of wishlists for other fans dreaming of the Jets making a reckless trade. After all, Ehlers had a tough postseason, and if Kevin Cheveldayoff channeled his inner Peter Chiarelli, that might have inspired an overreaction.
This ended up being a good day for Kevin to take off.
Ehlers produced three assists on Thursday, also shooting with abandon (eight SOG). Impressively, all three of Ehlers assists were of the primary variety. If you prefer, you might instead choose linemate Blake Wheeler, who scored two goals on nine SOG.
3. Matt Duchene, Predators
Quite a debut for Duchene.
The speedy center managed an impressive three assists, thwarted from a fourth thanks to a great stop by Devan Dubnyk. It’s quite possible that Duchene could form a fantastic top line with Mikael Granlund and Filip Forsberg. That trio created a lot of offense, and Nashville looks like it could have a winning balance.
Duchene only generated one SOG and “only” went 10-10 on draws, but it was an impressive performance.
Mikhail Sergachev ranks among the better honorable mentions with three assists of his own.
Highlight of the Night
While Dubnyk’s save might be the most impressive moment of Thursday, it was already covered here, and the Wild still lost to the Predators. So let’s honor a runner-up: sensational Sabres sophomore Rasmus Dahlin burned multiple Penguins for a tremendous goal in Buffalo’s 3-1 win. Dahlin shows the sort of hands you don’t normally see from a defenseman, even a very good one:
Blooper of the Night
The Rangers won a wild game against the Jets 6-4 on Thursday, but Lias Andersson didn’t get off to the greatest start, thanks to a pesky cord:
- The Lightning just keep on winning (waits for “in the regular season!” retorts). Tampa Bay has how won six consecutive season-openers, which is the longest active streak in the NHL. At the other end of the spectrum, the Flames can’t seem to win openers, losing their 10th in a row, tied for the second-longest slump in league history.
- Thursday marked the first time the Sabres beat the Penguins since April 23, 2013. Pittsburgh had also generated at least a point in 18 straight games against Buffalo, which ended on Thursday.
- Jesperi Kotkaniemi finally scored a goal on the road. Last season, the difference between his play in Montreal (strong) and away (not so strong) was night-and-day.
- Milan Lucic must have gotten into a fight at every first day of school. (More on his Flames debut here.)
TBL 5 – FLA 2
NYR 6 – WIN 4
BUF 3 – PIT 1
CAR 4 – MTL 3 (SO)
NSH 5 – MIN 2
BOS 2 – DAL 1
COL 5 – CGY 3
ANA 2 – ARI 1