The NHL had a quick turnaround after the excitement of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Only a month after the Blackhawks/Lightning showdown, the NHL released their 2015-2016 schedule and tickets were made available to the public. With the NHL Draft and most of the NHL Free Agency chaos in the rear-view window, it’s time to look at ten of the most anticipated match-ups coming out of the schedule release. Make sure to get your NHL tickets soon because they won’t last long, especially for the following games.
1.) Wednesday, October 7, 2015 – New York Rangers @ Chicago Blackhawks
You can’t have this list without opening night for the defending Stanley Cup champions, the Chicago Blackhawks. The key match-up here is Blackhawks’ forwards, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, against Rangers’ goaltender, Henrik Lundqvist. Lundqvist will need to put on one of his amazing stand-on-his-head performances to withstand the onslaught of the three-time championship combination of Toews and Kane.
2.) Friday, October 9, 2015 – Chicago Blackhawks @ New York Islanders
The New York Islanders begin a new era as they move into the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY. The action on the ice should be phenomenal as this game is loaded with top NHL talent such as Toews, Kane, and 2015 NHL Hart Trophy candidate, John Tavares. The major question mark is the crowd’s reaction. Can the Islanders create the same atmosphere and electricity they once had at the Nassau Coliseum? This game will be an indicator of whether hockey will fit into the Brooklyn culture and launch a glorious new chapter for the Islanders.
3.) Friday, October 9, 2015 – Toronto Maple Leafs @ Detroit Red Wings
After ten seasons as head coach of the Detroit Red Wings, Mike Babcock is getting a fresh start as the lead man for the Toronto Maple Leafs. As fate would have it, Babcock’s first game as Leaf’s head coach is against his old squad. Babcock’s return to the Motor City comes sooner than he expected, but this is a golden opportunity for Babcock and his Leaf squad to show why he is one of the best coaches in the game today and that Detroit made a huge mistake letting him walk away.
4.) Saturday, October 24, 2015 – Tampa Bay Lightning @ Chicago Blackhawks
Tampa Bay makes their return to Chicago, the location of their heartbreaking defeat in the finals. Tampa has an opportunity to gain a measure of revenge and make a statement that they should be considered the favorites for the championship this season. The Lightning bring back their highly efficient offense and will face a more depleted Blackhawks’ squad than the one they faced in June as the team now lacks Patrick Sharp and Brandon Saad, two major pieces of the Blackhawk’s championship run.
5.) Wednesday, October 28, 2015 – Pittsburgh Penguins @ Washington Capitals
You can’t talk about anticipated NHL games without talking about the first Crosby/Ovechkin matchup of the season. It will be the usual showcase of two premier talents in the league, but the real wild card is the offensive acquisitions both teams made in the off season. The Penguins added another potential 40 goal scorer to their already loaded lineup, acquiring Phil Kessel in a trade from Toronto. The Caps made big moves of their own, acquiring former Stanley Cup MVP Justin Williams and former Team USA hero T.J. Oshie in trades. Expect a high scoring, All-Star style game in their first meeting.
6.) Tuesday, November 3, 2015 – Washington Capitals @ New York Rangers
In the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Capitals and Rangers engaged in one of the greatest playoff series in league history. Every game was decided by one goal and it took an overtime goal from Ranger’s forward Derek Stepan in game seven to end their epic series. This will be their first meeting since that classic and if their playoff clashes are any indication, we are looking at another heart pounding, edge of your seat contest between two championship contenders.
7.) Friday, November 6- Pittsburgh Penguins @ Edmonton Oilers
One year ago, you couldn’t have imagined the Edmonton Oilers making a single appearance on this list, let alone twice! That’s how much anticipation there is to watch the 2015 first overall draft pick Connor McDavid. McDavid has been compared to the likes of Bobby Orr, Wayne Gretzky, and the man he’ll face in this game, Sidney Crosby. It’s the battle between the individual that helped bring the NHL back to prominence against the future of the league. This game could be a glimpse of future Stanley Cup Finals over the next decade and is the first of hopefully many epic showdowns between two of the league’s future all-time greats.
8.) Wednesday, December 6, 2015 – Buffalo Sabres @ Edmonton Oilers
2004 was the last draft that featured a 1-2 punch of top prospects when Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals and Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins were taken with the top two picks. This year, Connor McDavid (Oilers) and Jack Eichel (Sabres) generated more buzz than any NHL prospect in recent memory and many are anticipating the first clash of what might become the next Crosby/Ovechkin or Gretzky/Lemieux level rivalry.
9.) Friday, January 1, 2016 – NHL Winter Classic: Montreal Canadians @ Boston Bruins
The most storied rivalry in NHL history finally takes place in the NHL’s biggest regular season game of the year, the Winter Classic. This match-up brings more intensity and physically than any other in the league, so Gillette Stadium should be prepared to witness another all-out war highlighted by 2015 Hart Trophy Winner Carey Price, P.K. Subban, Zdeno Chara, and Patrice Bergeron, among others.
10.)Sunday, February 21, 2016 – NHL Stadium Series: Chicago Blackhawks @ Minnesota Wild
The NHL announced two Stadium Series games this year in addition to the Winter Classic. One of which will be the Red Wings against the Colorado Avalanche in Coors Field. However, the more intriguing match-up is the Blackhawks facing off against the Minnesota Wild at TCF Bank Stadium. It’s another playoff rematch, as the Wild got swept by the Blackhawks in the second round of the Western Conference playoffs. The Wild get a chance to prove they are in the Blackhawk’s league and they’ll have the support of what will likely be on the craziest and loudest crowds for any game this season.