Blake’s Takes: The 2021-22 Season Starts Tomorrow

The day we’ve been waiting for is almost here. The 2021-22 NHL season starts on Tuesday at 7:30 pm EST when the puck drops in Tampa Bay as the Lightning take on the vising Penguins. In addition to looking at the upcoming season, I’ll also look at a massive contract extension, and a few very notable injuries. 

Happy Monday and let’s get this season started.

1. Tuesday is Opening Night

The season starts tomorrow. There are two games, both being broadcast on ESPN. At 7:30 pm, the Lightning will face the Penguins in Tampa Bay. Then, the Golden Knights will host the Seattle Kraken as the two most-recent expansion teams square off. 

These games are notable for a few reasons. First, tonight marks the official start of the Lightning’s quest to three-peat. Second, it’s the Kraken’s first game as an NHL team. Third, it begins the start of the first 82-game regular season since the 2018-19 season. Hopefully, COVID-19 numbers will decline and the virus won’t take too much of a toll on the season.

I’m also excited for hockey broadcasts on ESPN. The network signed a bunch of talented broadcasters and analysts over the summer. I was very young the last time ESPN had the rights to the NHL, so this will be my first NHL game broadcast on ESPN that I can remember. Let’s get it going.

2. Barkov Signs Massive Extension

 

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Florida Panthers (@flapanthers)

Aleksander Barkov will be a Florida Panther for another eight years. He will also be a very rich man. Florida’s captain and the team agreed on a new eight-year extension worth $80 million, a $10 million AAV. Barkov is in the last year of a deal that began in the 2016-17 seasons. The deal was for six years and had a $5.9 million AAV.

This contract is the largest handed out by the Panthers in their history. It’s great to see a team that has consistently struggled to compete in a loaded division make an investment like this. Barkov is now the second player on the team that has a $10 million AAV. The other is goalie Sergei Bobrovsky.

Barkov has been one of the best and most consistent players in the NHL since he broke in during the 2013-14 season. He’s achieved four straight seasons averaging at least 0.94 PPG. His best offensive season was in 2018-19 where he posted career highs in goals, assists, and points with a line of 35-61-96.

Not only does he excel on the offensive side of the puck, but he also does so on the defensive side too. He’s widely considered to be one of the best two-way forwards in the league. So much so he won last year’s Selke Trophy. He’s also won a Lady Byng Trophy.

Barkov is only 26-years-old (he’s five months younger than me) so I’m confident he will live up to this deal. That being said, Florida is probably looking for more than just great production from Barkov. I’m sure they’d like to see a few playoff series wins over the next eight years. They’ve had their share of great players over the years, but not playoff success. I think Barkov could be the player to help them get there.

3. Injury Updates

[Photo Credit: Michael Miller]
Unfortunately, the 2021-22 season will begin without a few of the NHL’s premier players. Sidney Crosby will miss the first week of the season as he recovers from a wrist injury. He was just activated by Pittsburgh and skated for the first time on Saturday. Crosby is looking to follow up on another superb season where he posted another PPG season.

Sadly, Alex Ovechkin is also battling the injury bug. He suffered a lower-body injury during the Capitals’ last preseason game against the Flyers. He was hit by forward Travis Konecny during the first period and was slow to get up. Ovechkin will be day-to-day so it’s possible he doesn’t miss any games. Still, I want him out there chasing down Gretzky’s goals record. I’ll be sad to see him on the bench.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Chicago Blackhawks (@nhlblackhawks)

On a positive note, Jonathan Toews will return to the ice for the first time since the 2019-20 season. Toews sat out all last year after battling chronic immune response syndrome. Toews had two great seasons after a lull where he posted three straight sub-60-point seasons. He scored a career-high 81 points during the 2018-19 season. He also scored a career-high 35 goals that year. Toews is only 33-years-old. He may not lead the Blackhawks to another Stanley Cup championship, but he still has a lot of hockey left to play.

4. NHL 22 Releases Soundtrack

 

 
 
 
 
 
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EA Sports has released the soundtrack for NHL 22. The soundtracks are typically a highlight of these games for me. I discovered some great music from playing EA Games. I found Avenged Sevenfold when playing Madden 06 and Anberlin from playing NHL 08.

This year’s soundtrack has a few bangers on it. It’s very rock-heavy. That’s not surprising because most hockey fans listen to that kind of music. Some of my favorite artists on this year’s soundtrack are Angels & Airwaves, jxdn, KennyHoopla & Travis Barker, Machine Gun Kelly with Kellin Quinn, and POORSTACY.

I would recommend everyone listen to the playlist on Spotify in the link above. I’ll definitely be buying the game, even if it’s just for the music.

5. Carey Price Takes Leave

 

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Canadiens de Montréal (@canadiensmtl)

Carey Price has left the Montreal Canadiens to enter the NHL/NHLPA player assistance program voluntarily. It’s likely Price will miss the season opener against the Maple Leafs. No other information was released other than this Instagram post from Price’s wife Angela.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Angela Price (@byangelaprice)

I’m not going to speculate, but it’s clear Price is struggling with something at the moment. It’s incredibly sad to see Price struggling in his personal life. However, Price utilizing the player assistance program shows all athletes that it’s okay to seek help when you need it. If Carey Price can seek help, so can you.

I wish Price and his family the best during this difficult time. ■

Blake Isaacs is a die-hard Red Wings fan that doesn’t go to as many games as he should. He is also a big fan of 7-Eleven Slurpeees, Chipotle, and all things Michigan State. Follow him on Twitter @bisaacs1995.

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