The 2014-15 NHL schedule is here, a mere nine days after the Los Angeles Kings were crowned Stanley Cup champions for the second time in three seasons. Now road trips can be planned out and money set aside in our budgets for those games we just have to get to.
There are always certain dates of the NHL calendar that include must-see games, and this year’s campaign is no exception. Depending on how free agency and the trade market goes (Hello Messrs. Kesler and Spezza), a few more games could garner some hype.
In the meantime, here are our top ten can’t miss dates of this coming hockey season.
Wednesday, Oct. 8, 2014 — Montreal vs. Toronto, Philadelphia vs. Boston, Vancouver vs. Calgary, San Jose vs. Los Angeles
It’s opening night and what better way to celebrate than with some rivalries. We’ll end the evening on the west coast as the Kings raise another championship banner to the Staples Center rafters, and what better way to do it than in front of the opponents you made an historic comeback against.
There’s never any love lost between these two teams and now that Dale Weise has re-signed for two years with the Canadiens, will Milan Lucic follow through with his post-Game 7 handshake line threat?
Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2014 — New York Rangers at Tampa Bay Lightning
Martin St. Louis’s departure from Tampa Bay was contentous. He wanted out and despite the chemistry he had built up with Steven Stamkos, that wasn’t enough to keep his heart there. St. Louis was a great citizen of Tampa Bay. He became one of the NHL’s elite scorers there and won a Stanley Cup in 2004. Will what he helped create with the Lightning be forgotten and drowned out with boos the first time his name is announced at Tampa Bay Times Forum?
Saturday, Nov. 29, 2014 — Chicago Blackhawks at Los Angeles Kings
The two sides played the best series of the 2014 postseason, with the Kings fending off the Blackhawks, who forced a Game 7 after being down three games to one. It was fantastic hockey to watch and a series that ended in dramatic fashion with Alec Martinez scoring what would end up being his second biggest overtime series-winning goal of the playoffs.
Thursday, Jan. 1, 2015 - Winter Classic: Chicago Blackhawks at Washington Capitals
Maybe we’ll get a super snow storm again like we did last season in Ann Arbor when the Maple Leafs and Red Wings played through the swirling snowflakes. Even if we don’t, this Winter Classic will bring out the star power with Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Alex Ovechkin. There’s no deep rivalry for the NHL to sell here, it’s strictly the stars. Plus, it will make for an interesting 24/7, with HBO being able to revisit the Capitals and follow the day in, day out relationship of Kane and Toews.
Thursday, Jan. 8, 2015 — Florida Panthers at Vancouver Canucks
Roberto Luongo heads back to Vancouver for the first time since the March deal that ended one of the NHL’s longest-running sagas. After months of talk, Luongo finally made his way back to South Florida and after how his tenure with the Canucks ended, how will the fans respond?
Friday, Jan. 16, 2015 — Washington Capitals at Nashville Predators
The Predators will have a new man behind their bench for the first time in franchise history. Barry Trotz was relieved of his duties in April and replaced by Peter Laviolette. He was quickly snapped up by the Capitals, who fired Adam Oates. Bridgestone Arena will be a lovefest on this night, and you know the Predators will do a touching video tribute during a television timeout in the first period that will leave no eye dry.
Jan. 22 - Jan. 26 — All Star Weekend, Columbus
The NHL hasn’t held an All-Star Game since 2012 due to the lockout and the Olympics, but it will return this season with the Blue Jackets playing host. We’re still a ways away from the league announcing the format, but we’d be cool with Team Bobrovsky vs. Team Crosby.
Saturday, Feb. 21, 2015 - San Jose Sharks vs. Los Angeles Kings
For now, this is just a regular season game. But it could turn out to be the NHL's second outdoor game of the season. As soon as the league saw how successful last season’s Stadium Series game at Dodger Stadium was, another outdoor game in California was inevitable. The Sharks and the Kings will not only provide the spectacle of outdoor hockey on the west coast, but also be a showcase of two of the league’s powers*.
(*pending Doug Wilson doesn’t blow up the Sharks this summer)
Saturday, April 11, 2015 Columbus Blue Jackets at New York Islanders
Depending on how successful the Islanders’ season turns out, this may not be their final home game at Nassau Coliseum; but the organization and its fans will certainly do their part in saying goodbye to the building that was once known as “Fort Neverlose” in the 1980s. The Islanders will move to Brooklyn’s Barclays Center for the 2015-16 season, leaving Long Island since their inception in 1972. The team is planning events throughout the season to celebrate the rink's history, but the final home game will bring all of the nostalgia.
Saturday, April 11 also marks the final day of the NHL’s regular season, where all 30 teams will be involved. Division places and hopefully some playoff spots will on the line. All 30 teams are also in action early in the season on Oct. 11.
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