Stewie, Burkie and toothless wonders ... hockey must be back
Nothing like a little controversy to start our latest NHL season. But it's the right kind of controversy. The down-and-dirty-Hanson-Brothers kind of controversy.
1. After Ray Emery beat out Martin Gerber last season for the No. 1 goaltending job in Ottawa, Emery starts the season on the bench as he recovers from offseason wrist (glove side) surgery. Gerber started in Wednesday's opener vs. Toronto wearing an all-black Darth Vader mask. Impressive. Most impressive. But Stewie still does a better Darth Vader impression ("What the deuce!?").
2. Goalie Gate, Part Deux: The Leafs pulled off an offseason trade, bringing in Vesa Toskala (and Mark Bell) from the San Jose Sharks for a first-round pick and second-round pick in 2007 and a 2009 fourth-round pick. And who started in the opener? Andrew Raycroft. Hmm.
3. Ducks GM Brian Burke continued his jarring on Oilers GM Kevin Lowe, comments which stemmed from the latter's move to acquire Dustin Penner with a five-year, $21.25-million offer sheet. That was back in July. Penner's in Edmonton. But Burkie was still at it.
He told TSN of Canada on Tuesday: "For the colossal stupidity of what the Edmonton Oilers did this past summer, if I had run my team into the sewer like that, I wouldn't throw a grenade at the other 29 teams and my own indirectly. So, I have no intention of talking to them any time soon."
On Wednesday, Oilers coach Craig MacTavish fired back during a local media scrum: "He reminds me of the Wizard of Oz, where you comb his hair and put a white shirt on and wheel him out in front of the cameras and he's going to say whatever you guys want. Clearly it's a crusade of self promotion on his part at this point ... what goes around, comes around in this league."
Yahoo! Let's get this party started!
• For the record, here were your goalie matchups Wednesday: Cam Ward (Carolina) vs. Cristobal Huet (Montreal); Gerber (Ottawa) vs. Raycroft (Toronto); Ilya Bryzgalov (Anaheim) vs. Dominik Hasek (Detroit); Marty Turco (Dallas) vs. Peter Budaj (Colorado).
• Antoine Vermette scored for Ottawa to give them a 1-0 lead against Toronto, quickly taking some of the life out of the Air Canada Centre crowd. Boy, that Maple Leafs squad looks so much better against the rush.
• OK, I am a traditionalist as much as the next person when it comes to hockey staples like jerseys, but I don't get all the hub-bub over the new sweaters. Yes, they are more streamlined (and I am sure the players may have issues with them that I would never pretend to understand), but, as a fan, is it that much of a big deal? Heck, even the Caps brought back a version of their old logo (good move). We should all move on.
• Hurricanes defenseman Bret Hedican scored his first goal in 67 games. Here's a shout out to Mr. Kristi Yamaguchi.
• Todd Bertuzzi had a goal and an assist in the second period to help the Ducks pull up 2-1 against the Red Wings in Hockeytown. The Versus crew interviewed Big Bert during the second intermission and we love the bottom-toothless forward. It's a touch only pucks can provide. (Remember those classic shots of the toothless Bobby Clarke holding the Cup and Mark Messier cradling the Conn Smythe Trophy?) It beats the baseball player's mouth-full-with-wads-of-chew shot any day of the week.
• Raycroft makes a save on a breakaway about seven minutes into the second period. Baby steps?
• Saku Koivu scored in overtime to give the Canadiens a 3-2 win over the Hurricanes in Raleigh, N.C. Start of my Hallmark moment. Koivu is one of sports' great stories. Koivu beats cancer and a nearly-debilitating eye injury over the last seven years and is still going strong. End of Hallmark moment.
• Here at the ESPN compound in Bristol, Conn., we had feeds of all four games Wednesday night. Montreal-Carolina was a feed of RDS' broadcast, so we had a little French flavor with our opening night. We also had the TSN of Canada feed of the Ottawa-Toronto broadcast and Versus' telecasts of Anaheim-Detroit and Dallas-Colorado. During the Sens-Leafs broadcast, we kept seeing this Reebok commercial with Sidney Crosby, which was almost as good as last season's Gatorade commercial starring the Penguins star. Why are kids not seeing these commercials in the States? Some of his deals are only based in Canada, but some athlete needs to balance out all of the Peyton Manning commercials and give the Colts quarterback a run for his money.
• Back to Sens-Leafs. After Toronto's players were drawn to the left side by Chris Phillips, Andrej Meszaros was wide open on the right side and found another wide-open Dany Heatley, who was waiting like a cat in the left faceoff circle. Score. Game tied at 3 with under six minutes left in regulation.
GM Bryan Murray must have been smiling from the rafters as he and the Sens locked up the veteran forward with a new deal before the start of Wednesday's game. It helped them avoid a Ryan Smyth-type situation (not that I am comparing players, people!), where the weight of a "no deal" carries over to the new season (Heats didn't want to conduct talks during the season) and you have major trade-deadline and/or offseason drama. You also avoid the chance of having a crying-at-the-airport press conference.
• Quite a scary moment for the Stars in their season opener vs. the Avalanche in Denver. Late in the first period while chasing for a puck, Dallas captain Brenden Morrow slid back-first into the boards and Avs defenseman Brett Clark's leg slammed into Morrow's face. Holding his nose and mouth, Morrow left the ice under his own power. He returned later in the game.
• Heatley struck again! Mike Fisher made a pass to Heatley, who hammered home a shot from the slot despite Chad Kilger hanging on him like butter on toast. Heatley went five-hole on Raycroft and the Senators beat the Leafs 4-3 in overtime. Murray was likely still smiling. Somewhere, Burke was not.
• More missing teeth! Paul Stastny had a few of his front teeth missing during an in-game-at-the-bench-I-am-out-of-breath interview with Versus at about midway through the second period. (He later wound up netting his first career NHL hat trick.) The kid already had two goals at that point and I now I have that damn Christmas song in my head.
All I want for Christmas is a Reijo Ruotsalainen bobble head doll.
Joy Russo is the NHL editor for ESPN.com.
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