By: Brennen Krikorian
Thankfully, the NHL has made it to the one-month mark without COVID-19 entirely ruining things. Despite vast amounts of rescheduling, the 2021 season has been incredible so far. With the new divisional format, we have gotten to see an abundance of renewed rivalries and exciting hockey every night.
With one month in the books, here are the storylines that jump out the most:
Jack Roslovic, not Patrik Laine, is the reason Columbus is winning the blockbuster trade so far
As stated in my preseason hot takes article, it was evident that Patrik Laine was not going to last all season in Winnipeg. Entering the final year of his contract, the Jets were dying to get some pieces for him before he walked in free agency.
In Columbus, star center Pierre-Luc Dubois stated that he wanted a change in scenery, and with his dad coaching for Winnipeg’s AHL team, it was a pretty easy decision to swap the second and third picks of the 2016 draft.
Along with Laine, Winnipeg threw in Jack Roslovic, who started the year as an unsigned restricted free agent, as a sweetener to compliment Columbus’ third round pick addition.
Little did Winnipeg know, Roslovic would be much more than a sweetener to start the year. Through just 13 games, the Columbus native had already registered four goals and eight assists and has quickly become the top center for his hometown team.
Laine has been solid so far for Columbus, scoring eight goals in 11 games, but Dubois had been sidelined due to COVID-19, so we will have to wait before we decide a real winner of this trade, but it is impossible to not love what Roslovic has been doing for his new team.
Blackhawks refuse to accept rebuild
The Chicago Blackhawks have been arguably the best NHL franchise over the past decade, winning three Stanley Cups and consistently sitting atop the league each year.
Despite the long-tenured success, general manager Stan Bowman released a statement prior to the season that the Blackhawks would begin rebuilding their organization.
Many people disagreed with Bowman’s decision, but with the long-term injuries of centers Jonathan Toews and Kirby Dach along with the departure of goalie Corey Crawford, this seemed like the right season to “tank” for the future.
In the first four games of the season, it seemed like Bowman’s plan was coming to fruition. Chicago was 0-4 and got outscored 20-9 during that stretch. The poor play would be short-lived, as they have since gone 10-2-4.
Not only have they been able to score at a high rate, they also found a solution between the pipes. Rookie Kevin Lankinen started the year as the third string goalie and has already become the everyday starter.
In 14 games, the Finnish net minder has a 2.59 goals against average and a .921 save percentage.
Bowman’s goal all along was to play his young guys large minutes for developmental purposes, but to the surprise of many, these young Blackhawks have drastically exceeded expectations and are electric to watch every night they play.
The division-only schedule is incredible
In the past 5-10 years, the biggest complaints from hockey fans have been that “fighting has disappeared” and “players are too friendly with one another,” and to those people, I would say you got what you wanted and then some.
Prior to the start of the season, the NHL released a statement that division alignment would be restructured in order to cooperate with COVID-19 guidelines to limit travel.
With this, all teams would play strictly within their division, meaning each team would play their opponents 8-10 times during the year and play multiple games against the same team at a time.
Thanks to this fantastic rule, we have gotten to see hockey played at its best, filled with rivalry and hatred.
Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin play eight times against one another. We see The Battle of Alberta nine times. Ryan Reaves and the Las Vegas Knights have to see Colorado four times in a row. How can you not love it?
These teams get to learn one another’s tactics better than they have ever been able to. Every game seems like it is going down to the final minute. If there were fans in the arenas, who knows what these players would do to one another.
All in all, it has been an absolute joy to watch this season, and the playoffs are guaranteed to be nothing short of phenomenal from start to finish.
Cover photo via: NHL.com
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