For the first time in history the opening weekend of the NHL season corresponds with the Conference Championships of the NFL. That’s not something to be proud of, NHL. But it did afford us an opportunity to watch an extra helping of sport action this weekend. The five best culled from hours and hours of TV viewing by our panel of experts:
#5 Cream of the Early Crop
When we were looking ahead to the 2013 NHL Hockey season, we didn’t think that the standings as of January 20th would be limited to just one game per team. But there’s no use crying over spilled milk now. One game is all we’ve got to go on as of now, and as of now the cream of the crop appears to be the St. Louis Blues who racked up six goals on the Detroit Redwings while holding the opposition scoreless. That six goal margin of victory was the best in the league and puts the Blues off to a good start.
#4 Marathon Man
Everyone remembers Novak Djokovic’s epic 5:53 match against Rafael Nadal in the finals of the Australian Open last year. This year’s 5 hour match against Stanislas Wawrinka in the fourth round may not have been quite so epic, but it was almost as long. The relatively unheralded Swiss player turned in an incredible performance and pushed the defending champ to the limit, but he just couldn’t close the deal. Djokovic out-foxed and out-lasted Wawrinka to survive an early round scare.
#3 Goalie Drama
The opening weekend of the abbreviated 2013 NHL season had many… interesting story lines. Probably none more so than the Vancouver Canucks goalie situation. Starting goalie Cory Schneider, before the end of the 2nd period, had given up a horrifying 5 goals on just 14 shots, including two in a period of 11 seconds. Schneider’s replacement – Roberto Luongo, who had been kicked to the bench during the offseason to make room for Schneider – came in and stopped 10 of the next 12 shots.
#2 On the Way to New Orleans
Ray Lewis’ retirement party will have to wait a little longer. The Baltimore Ravens fell behind early in the AFC championship game but came out to play in the second half. The New England Patriots, maybe a touch overconfident that they could repeat last year’s performance in the Championship game – blew a second half lead for the first time EVER in the Belichick / Brady era. The Ravens winning was a shocker. Them winning handily was off the surprise chart.
#1 On the Way to New Orleans Part II
The Atlanta Falcons jumped all over the San Francisco 49ers early. It looked like this one might be over before it began in earnest. Up 17-0 with nothing to do but finish the final 5/8th of the game and book the flights to New Orleans, the Atlanta Falcons suffered a devastating breakdown, similar to the 20-0 lead they blew last week but with far more significant consequences. Despite leaving 10 points on the table (a botched David Akers field goal and a fumble on the goal line) the 49ers did enough to earn their way to the Super Bowl.
And the All-Harbaugh Bowl is a reality.