What happened over the weekend that you need to know about? Joe McDonald gives us his take on the biggest and best performances. This is where we say, "Morning, Joe."
Halak still rolling: After watching goaltender Jaroslav Halak's success for Team Europe during the World Cup of Hockey last month in Toronto, I wondered how it would translate to start the regular season for the New York Islanders. After all, he was coming off a groin injury suffered on March 8 that caused him to miss the remainder of last season, including the playoffs. In his absence, Thomas Greiss manned the net and played well. Halak had surgery during the offseason to repair a sports hernia and was 100 percent healthy for the World Cup. After leading Europe to the finals against Canada, Halak opened the 2016-17 season with 34 saves in a 5-3 loss to the New York Rangers last Thursday at Madison Square Garden, and followed that up with a 24-save performance to help the Islanders to a 3-2 overtime win against the Anaheim Ducks at Barclays Center in Brooklyn on Sunday. In order for the Islanders to return to the postseason again next spring, Halak, 31, will need to earn every bit of his $4.75 million this season.
Laviolette has Preds clicking: The Nashville Predators posted a 1-1 record during their home-and-home series with the Chicago Blackhawks this weekend. I picked the Predators to win the Central Division this season and reach the Stanley Cup finals before losing to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Sure, it's only two games, but the Predators put in a good showing against the Blackhawks. I've always believed that the Predators' Peter Laviolette was the type of coach who could be successful in small spurts with teams. Yes, he won a Stanley Cup with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006, and reached the finals with the Philadelphia Flyers in 2010, but I questioned what type of job he would do during the long term with the Predators after the team hired him before the 2014-15 season. He's had two successful seasons in Nashville, and after the team signed him to a contract extension before this season, it appears he could be in position to lead this team deep into the Stanley Cup playoffs. As for the Blackhawks, winger Richard Panik, 25, scored his first career NHL hat trick en route to a 5-3 win against the Predators on Saturday at United Center. Panik, who has been playing on the top line centered by Jonathan Toews, has four goals and one assist for five points in the first three games.
McDavid on heavy pace: On Friday, the second game of the home-and-home series between the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames proved to be another strong statistical night for the Oilers' Connor McDavid. He had a goal and two assists for a two-game total of six points to start the season. If McDavid keeps this up, he could be tough to beat for the overall scoring race. He registered 48 points in 44 games during his injury-plagued rookie season, and if he can remain healthy, it'll be interesting to see if he can produce more than a point a game during a full 82-game season. That type of success for a 19-year-old seems daunting in this league, but we are talking about a generational player. His impressive pace took a hit, though, when he was held without a point and was minus-1 in Sunday's 6-2 loss to the Buffalo Sabres.