Three of the biggest UFA signings over the summer were Matt Duchene, Artemi Panarin, and Sergei Bobrovsky. Thursday night they made their debuts with Nashville, the Rangers, and Florida respectively with different results. Bobrovsky couldn’t stop the Tampa Bay Lightning’s onslaught, leading to the Panthers dropping their home opener 5-2. Meanwhile Duchene registered three assists to lead Nashville to a 5-2 victory over Minnesota and Panarin had a goal and an assist in the Rangers’ 6-4 win over Winnipeg.
Of course, it would be pointless to read too much into a single game when all three signed three-year contracts. That said, it’s an interesting start to their new stories. Florida in particular is an interesting story because they were already a club that seemed to have a lot of the pieces in place to be competitive and in theory adding a two-time Vezina Trophy-winning goaltender should be enough to push them over the head. But as good as Bobrovsky has been during those award winning seasons, he’s also had lapses at times and the Panthers are in a very tough division. Tampa Bay, Boston, and Toronto are all heavy favorites to make the playoffs while Buffalo is another team that should be on an upswing. The Panthers have their work cut out for them to make their way into the playoffs.
So do the Rangers for that matter, even after adding Panarin, though they certainly showcased how effective their offense can be now, especially with the backing of another new addition, offensive defenseman Jacob Trouba. Nashville, meanwhile, is arguably the safest bet among the trio to make the playoffs with Duchene complimenting a core that has already proven to be very effective.
Editor's Note: If you're on the hunt for rankings, projections, strategy and advice on how to dominate your drafts, check out the all-new Rotoworld NHL Draft Guide. Now mobile-optimized with a new look and feel, it's never been easier to take our award-winning advice with you to your drafts for that extra competitive edge! Click here to learn more!
TAMPA BAY 5 FLORIDA 2
Sergei Bobrovsky’s first game after signing a seven-year, $70 million contract with the Panthers over the summer was less than ideal. He stopped 25 of 29 Lightning shots. Of course, it’s just one game and Tampa Bay has an elite offense, so it’s way too early to worry.
At the other end of the ice, Andrei Vasilevskiy saved 35 of 37 shots. He claimed the Vezina Trophy in 2019.
Speaking of award winners, Nikita Kucherov had a goal and an assist for Tampa Bay. He won the 2019 Hart Trophy and Ted Lindsay Award.
Mikhail Sergachev assisted on three of the Lightning’s five goals. It was the 21-year-old defenseman’s first three-point game.
Vincent Trocheck scored a goal and registered an assist. The Panthers forward had 75 points in 2017-18, but dropped to 34 points in 55 games last season.
NY RANGERS 6 WINNIPEG 4
Nikolaj Ehlers registered three assists for the Jets. After getting at least 60 points in back-to-back seasons in 2016-17 and 2017-18, he had 37 points in 62 contests last season.
Connor Hellebuyck kicked out 26 of 31 shots last night. He had a 34-23-3 record, 2.90 GAA, and .913 save percentage in 63 games in 2018-19.
Winnipeg had a 4-3 lead early in the third period. Mika Zibanejad tied the game at 5:04 of the final frame. He also registered three assists over the contest.
Jacob Trouba scored a goal and recorded two assists in his Rangers debut. He spent the first 408 games of his career with Winnipeg.
BUFFALO 3 PITTSBURGH 1
Conor Sheary scored two goals, including the game winner. Since being traded by the Penguins, he’s performed very well against them. He now has three goals and six points in four career contests versus Pittsburgh.
Rasmus Dahlin accounted for the other Sabres goal. He had nine goals and 44 points in 82 contests as a rookie.
Evgeni Malkin scored Pittsburgh’s lone goal. He’s just eight goals away from 400.
Carter Hutton stopped 28 of 29 shots last night. He had an 18-25-5 record, 3.00 GAA, and .908 save percentage in 50 games last season.
Matt Murray saved 38 of 41 shots Thursday night. He allowed a goal on 17 shots in the first period and two in 13 shots in the second.
CAROLINA 4 MONTREAL 3 (SO)
Carey Price stopped 40 of 43 shots in regulation time. He then surrendered one goal in three shootout rounds.
Petr Mrazek saved 33 of 36 shots before the skills competition. He also held his own in three shootout rounds to pick up the extra point.
Dougie Hamilton registered two assists last night. He also scored the only goal in the shootout.
Erik Haula found the back of the net at 6:55 of the third period. He was making his debut with the Carolina Hurricanes after being limited to 15 games with Vegas last season due to injury.
Jesperi Kotkaniemi scored a goal with Montreal. The sophomore had 11 goals and 34 points in 79 contests in 2018-19.
NASHVILLE 5 MINNESOTA 2
Matt Dumba scored a goal for the Wild. It was his first game since Dec. 15 due to injury.
Devan Dubnyk turned aside 27 of 31 shots last night. He had a 31-28-6 record, 2.54 GAA, and .913 save percentage in 67 games.
At the other end of the ice, Pekka Rinne saved 22 of 24 shots. He was making his 10th straight start in a season opener.
Filip Forsberg scored a goal and registered an assist. He has 146 goals and 307 points in 396 career contests.
Matt Duchene assisted on three of Nashville’s five goals. It was his Predators debut after signing a seven-year, $56 million contract.
BOSTON 2 DALLAS 1
Danton Heinen scored the game-winning goal on Thursday. It was his seventh career game winner.
Boston’s other goal was netted by Brett Ritchie. He had four goals and six points in 53 contests in 2018-19.
Roope Hintz accounted for Dallas’ only goal. He had nine markers and 22 points in 58 games as a rookie last season.
Tuukka Rask saved 28 of 29 Stars shots last night. It was his 266th career victory, which ties him with Felix Potvin for 49th place on the all-time list.
Ben Bishop turned aside 18 of 20 shots on Thursday. He didn’t face more than seven shots in any period.
COLORADO 5 CALGARY 3
Mikko Rantanen scored twice in the opener. Missing training camp as a contract holdout doesn’t seemed to have slowed him down.
Joonas Donskoi also scored a pair of goals for Colorado. He had 14 goals and 37 points in 80 games last season.
Sean Monahan scored a power-play goal and registered an assist. He finished 2018-19 with 34 goals and 82 points in 78 contests.
David Rittich stopped 27 of 31 shots Thursday night. He surrendered two goals in each of the first and second periods.
Philipp Grubauer turned aside 27 of 30 Flames shots. Two of Calgary’s three goals were scored with the man advantage.
ANAHEIM 2 ARIZONA 1
John Gibson stopped 32 of 33 shots on Thursday. Anaheim was outshot 14-6 in the first period, but thanks in part to Gibson, they actually left that frame up 1-0.
Cam Fowler netted the game-winning goal. He had five goals and 23 points in 59 contests last season.
Derek Grant also found the back of the net for Anaheim. It was his 17th career goal in 209 games.
Darcy Kuemper kicked out 27 of 29 shots. He had a 27-20-8 record, 2.33 GAA, and .925 save percentage in 55 contests.