Well hey, look at that.
It’s Phil Kessel signing day (more on that later) and it’s also the season opener in Montreal. While they say that the games get more important as you draw into March and April, this is a pretty important game already. Not only is it a rivalry game pitting our Upper Canadian squad against the God-fearing (literally) chain-smoking, civil war-losin’ Lower Canadian hockey team, I suspect that if the Leafs are in contention for a playoff spot come April, Montreal will be one of the teams also right there in the mix at a similar spot in the standings.
So… what the heck to expect in this contest?
We know VIRTUALLY nothing about these teams. I checked the “Team Stats” page and it simply has thirty teams listed in a bunch of categories with zeroes next to them. Zero wins, zero losses, zero goals, zero hits and zero faceoff wins. It’s like we have no idea who is going to be good or bad this season based on the information provided to us.
MAPLE LEAFS AT CANADIANS
Puck drop: 7:00 Eastern
[Richard] Price, in framing [Thomas] Bayes’s essay, gives the example of a person who emerges into the world (perhaps he is Adam, or perhaps he came from Plato’s cave) and sees the sun rise for the first time. At first, he does not know whether this is typical or some sort of freak occurrence. However, each day that he survives and the sun rises again, his confidence increases that it is a permanent feature of nature. Gradually, though this purely statistical form of inference, the probability he assigns to his prediction that the sun will rise again tomorrow approaches (although never exactly reaches) percent.
“Damnit Cam, what is this, a statistical lesson?”
Hell no. This ain’t our first sunrise. Unless you are completely new to following the NHL, you recognize that season predictions, even consensus predictions, ain’t worth jack except to draw viewership and scorn to your website. You’ve been around long enough to know that sometimes the entire hockey community doesn’t see one team coming, or has completely overrated one team.
Sometimes, things miss. As much as it makes logical sense for Montreal and Toronto to be doing battle for a playoff spot in 2014, it wasn’t at all the case at the start of last season. The teams wound up with the 3rd and 5th overall picks at the 2012 Entry Draft. In analyzing 24 picks from ESPN and NHL.com at the start of last shortened season, here are the analysts that selected Montreal to win the Northeast:
We have no Bayesian prior for this season. We have nothing to look back at and think “oh, here is how this roster works, and they are getting things done”. All we have is a season ago, but things have changed. Players have gotten healthy, players have moved teams and some goaltenders are ready to go on monstrous runs this year, land a Vezina nomination and a playoff spot for their team.
Sports are great because they’re impossible to forecast accurately. As much fun as I have being generally right about 26 or 27 teams in any given season, it’s the three or four I’m wrong about that provide me with the most entertainment.
You maaaaay have noticed a big partnership with dailyfaceoff.com. They have some cool fantasy info, along with gameday rosters, which we’ll be using in these posts.
While Dave Bolland has some experience in being a defensive specialist, Mason Raymond and Troy Bodie do not, at least not since Raymond’s back injury a couple of years ago. I’m not too confident on the checking line on the first night of the season, and it looks a heck of a lot better with Nik Kulemin on it. Randy Carlyle always likes to run his third line out against the other team’s top line.
As for the defence:
Looks like Morgan Rielly will not get his first ever NHL game tonight, which really is too bad. Maybe they’re saving it for the first home game, or something.
But, while we can’t get excited about Rielly, we can get excited over Jake Gardiner and Cody Franson. They were paired together in the playoffs last year starting with Mark Fraser’s injury and became absolutely magical. I really hope Carlyle lets them jump into plays with Nazem Kadri. That’s Gardiner’s specialty anyway, and he could be very useful if you have him in a fantasy league and he gets all the minutes with Kadri that Fraser had last season.
Also, Fraser wears No. 2 now, which is going to look weird for a while.
Pacioretty – Desharnais – Briere
Bourque – Plekanec – Gionta
Galchenyuk – Eller – Gallagher
Moen – Prust – Parros
Gorges – Subban
Markov – Diaz
Tinordi – Bouillon
David Desharnais is the Tyler Bozak of the Montreal Canadiens. He plays with a real good American winger and brings down his scoring ability. The remainder of the Habs roster is fairly balanced, except they have a disaster looming on the fourth line if they ever get matched up against Kadri or Kessel.
Side note: the over-under on fights happening between Colton Orr and George Parros is set at 1.5.
James Reimer vs. Carey Price
Reimer gets the start tonight, but that doesn’t mean he’s won the No. 1 job. Remember last year when Ben Scrivens started the first two games. That was mostly because he was already in game shape thanks to playing a tonne in the AHL during the lockout, but there’s still plenty of opportunity for Jonathan Bernier to claim a high number of starts. Reimer was the better goalie in preseason.
My picks for tonight’s games:
- Toronto @ Montreal
- Washington @ Chicago
- Winnipeg @ Edmonton
Only a three-game schedule to begin the season. Streakcred allows you to pass over games, and I think the only real surefire bet here is Edmonton at home to Winnipeg. The Oil are without their top two centremen, which kinda sucks for them, but they’re better at every position and playing at home against a team that figured out exactly nothing in the preseason.