The NHL returns to the ice Tuesday night, and for the first time since the 2003-04 season, it’s back on ESPN!
Kl. 19:30 ET we see Tampa Bay Lightning raise another Stanley Cup banner before taking on the Pittsburgh Penguins. Then at 22:15 the Vegas Golden Knights will welcome the expansion Seattle Kraken to the NHL.
To help you get ready for both doubleheader matchups, we’ve put together a guide for all the key players to watch, in-depth statistical insights on each team from ESPN Stats & Information, and more.
This season, ESPN + is broadcasting 75 exclusive regular season matches, with ABC and ESPN broadcasting 28 combined exclusive regular season matches for a total of 103 matches. The complete broadcast schedule can be found here.
Subscribe to ESPN + | Stream NHL on ESPN
19:30 ET | Watch live on ESPN, ESPN + Line: Lyn -190 | Over under: 6
Lightning ESPN Power Rankings: 2 Goalkeeper tandem rank: 2 An overview of 2020-21: 36-17-3, won the Stanley Cup
Most fascinating player: We last saw Nikita Kucherov deliver a shirtless, beer-soaked interview after Lightning won their second straight Stanley Cup. (Personal favorite line: Kucherov shouted “Buy new microphone!” To a Zoom interviewer who struggled.) He had a playoff best 32 points in 23 games after missing the entire regular season after surgery for a hip labrum tear, the rehab time, which was about five months (with open pay-cap space).
We have not seen Kuch trade in the normal season since 2019-20. In his last two regular seasons, the 28-year-old Russian was second behind Leon Draisaitl in total points (213) and captured the Hart Trophy as the league MVP in 2018-19. Welcome back to the normal season, Kucherov. You were missed. – Greg Wyshynski
Kucherov missed the entire 2020-21 regular season after undergoing hip surgery, but returned to lead the NHL in points in the playoffs for the second time in a row with 32. The only players with more points in a two-post season in NHL history are Wayne Gretzky (four separate teams) and Mario Lemieux (78 points in the 1991 and 1992 Stanley Cup playoffs).
Since 2013-14, Victor Hedman has the third largest point among defenders, with 429, which was only after Brent Burns (483) and Erik Karlsson (462).
In the last four seasons, Andrei Vasilevskiy is the winning goalie in the NHL with 149 wins. His .921 save percentage in that span only tracks Ben Bishop’s .923 for the highest among goalkeepers with at least 100 games.
The Tampa Bay Lightning looks set to become the first NHL three-turf team since the islanders in the early ’80s.
Penguins ESPN Power Rankings: 11 Goalkeeper tandem rank: 22 An overview of 2020-21: 37-16-3, lost in the first round
Most fascinating player: Sidney Crosby, 34, is entering his 17th NHL season and needs 14 goals to reach 500 in his career. He is also looking to win a playoff round for the first time since 2018. This drought is not due to a lack of influence from Sid, who has been a point-per-player player in every season of his career and finished fourth in the MVP vote in last season.
He will miss the start of the season after a wrist operation, but will return within the first month. – Greg Wyshynski
With Crosby and Evgeni Malkin each recovering from out-of-season surgery, this will be the first Penguins season opener without them both since October 10, 2003, when the Penguins lost 3-0 to the Los Angeles Kings.
Jake Guentzel is the most prolific Penguins scorer, not named Crosby or Malkin. Since joining the NHL in 2016-17, his 121 goals only track Crosby (148) and Malkin (129) for most on the team, and his 257 points are also just behind Crosby (387) and Malkin (344). Guentzel is not playing due to COVID-19 protocols, which means the Penguins will be without their top three points scorers from the last five seasons.
Jeff Carter was acquired on April 12 from Kings for a third-round pick in 2022 and a fourth-round pick in 2023, giving some huge goals down the stretch in 2020-21. Carter’s 13 goals in 20 games, including the playoffs, led the Penguins from April 15 to the end of their campaign.
When Kris Letang has been available, he has been a consistent goal scorer. During the last 10 seasons, Letang has the second highest point per. Game rate among defenders with at least 300 games (0.80) behind only Erik Karlsson (0.85). His point pr. 60 minutes on 5-against-5 is sixth among the defenders in this time of 1.17.
Among 58 goalkeepers who played in at least 15 games last season, Casey DeSmith ranked 22nd in save percentage, at .912, and Tristan Jarry ranked 27th, at .909. Jarry battled in the off-season, posting a .888 save percentage in the six-game loss to the Islanders. Jarry’s playoff save percentage was the lowest of any goalkeeper who played at least four games in the playoffs in 2021.
22:15 ET | Watch live on ESPN, ESPN + Line: Knights -230 | Over under: 5.5
Golden Knights ESPN Power Rankings: 3 Goalkeeper tandem rank: 7 An overview of 2020-21: 40-14-2, lost in the Stanley Cup semifinals
Most fascinating player: Robin Lehner has been one of the most talked about players in the NHL preseason for what he has said: Protesting the Sabers’ treatment of his friend Jack Eichel, calling coaches like Philadelphia’s Alain Vigneault bullying “dinosaurs” and accusing NHL teams of to give players painkillers without a prescription.
But he will also be one of the most talked about players of the regular season, as he is tasked with leading the Golden Knights to a Stanley Cup championship. There is no Marc-Andre Fleury there as a competition or as a safety net. It’s the Robin Lehner Show now. – Greg Wyshynski
Since making his debut with the Golden Knights on February 26, 2019 following a trade deal with the Ottawa Senators, Mark Stone is the team leader in assists (88) and points (135) and his 47 goals trail only Max Pacioretty (60) and Reilly Smith (50 ) for most on the team.
Will Stone’s 5-on-5 roller coaster numbers continue? In 2019-20, Stone scored 12 5-on-5 goals, but his shooting percentage was 9.7%. His shooting percentage jumped all the way up to 20.9% at 5-on-5 last season, eighth highest among them averaging 10 minutes per game. Match 5-on-5.
Marc-Andre Fleury won the Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s best goalie … and was traded to the Blackhawks this offseason. According to Elias Sports Bureau, the only goalkeeper in the last 40 years who won the Vezina Trophy and then did not return to the team the following season, Dominik Hasek, who won the award with the Sabers in 2000-01 and then traded in July 2001 to Detroit Red Wings.
Robin Lehner takes over as the Golden Knights’ No. 1 goalkeeper. He and Fleury combined to win the Jennings Trophy last season to allow the fewest goals as a team during the regular season. Since coming to Vegas by the trade deadline in 2020, Lehner is 16-4-2 in the base game with the Golden Knights, with a .917 save percentage and two shutouts in 22 games.
According to the Stathletes, the Golden Knights had two of the six most-used lines on 5-on-5 last season: Reilly Smith-Jonathan Marchessault-William Karlsson played together 540 minutes, which was second most in the NHL; Mark Stone-Max Pacioretty-Chandler Stephenson played together 441 minutes, which was the sixth most in the NHL.
Kraken ESPN Power Rankings: 25 Goalkeeper tandem rank: 3
Most fascinating player: In the endless comparisons with their latest expansion brothers, the Golden Knights, many have wondered which member of the Seattle Kraken will be their version of William Karlsson, who went from being an in-depth player with the Blue Jackets to a revelation of 43 goals in the Knights initial season.
The current favorite is Jared McCann, a six-year NHL veteran with the Canucks, Panthers and Penguins (and even though he did not play a game there, Toronto). He is an analytical darling who is expected to be the team’s top center between Jaden Schwartz and Jordan Eberle. Now he just needs a nickname just as amazing as “Wild Bill” is for Karlsson. – Greg Wyshynski
Jordan Eberle is the only player on Kraken’s roster to score at least 30 goals in a season, and that happened in 2011-12, in his second NHL campaign while at the Edmonton Oilers. Kraken has a total of five players who have scored at least 20 goals in a season: Eberle (six times), Jaden Schwartz (three times), Yanni Gourde (twice), Marcus Johansson (twice) and Mark Giordano (once) .
Jaden Schwartz and Jared McCann were Kraken’s teammates in points during the preseason, with five each in four games. Schwartz signed Kraken’s longest term for a forward when he signed a five-year, $ 27.5 million contract when he came over from the Blues. McCann was claimed by Kraken in the expansion draft from the Toronto Maple Leafs, a team that McCann never played for. McCann was treated on July 17 from the penguins to the leaves.
Defender Vince Dunn scored three goals in the preseason for Kraken. In his four NHL seasons, Dunn’s 32 goals in all situations and 11 power-play goals left only Alex Pietrangelo for most among Blues defenders.
Kraken’s goalkeepers Philipp Grubauer and Chris Driedger come from fantastic seasons 2021-22. Grubauer was a finalist for the Vezina Trophy and finished with 30 wins, one shy of the NHL lead (Andrei Vasilevskiy had 31) and a .922 save percentage who was eighth in the NHL. Driedger was 14-6-3 with the Panthers, and his .927 save percentage was in a virtual result for fourth best among qualifying goalkeepers.