This is day one. Game one. Road trip number one. Division showdown number one.
It's a start. A beginning. A blank page, or more appropriately, a fresh sheet of ice just waiting for skate blades to cross it, mark it, sign it.
But for all the new beginning talk, for every attempt that Guy Boucher has made to remind his players and the fans alike that the process has begun anew, that things will start from scratch and the team and coaching staff will build on that, there's a little quirk that cannot be easily dismissed.
Expectations of continuity.
Yeah, the stats are all goose-eggs once again, but we're at a point with the roster core where we know what to expect from them. We know what they are capable of. It's a blessing, it's a curse. It's a comfort to know, and it's outright unnerving when those citizens of the team core don't put up stats that match what they are capable.
Knowing it's the sophomore season under Coach Boucher and GM Steve Yzerman (JM), a balance must be struck between expectations and the all-too-common sophomore slump.
Life begins anew for the Tampa Bay Lightning this evening at RBC Center in Raleigh. The franchise commences season number 19. What has happened in the past, has happened. What will be, will be.
We'll start with number one and go from there. It's a process, but you know what to expect while counting to 82.
With Mattias Ohlund on IR, the defense has been shuffled around a touch to compensate. Victor Hedman will be on the first pairing with Eric Brewer, while Matt Gilroy will be paired up with Brett Clark, and Marc-Andre Bergeron will be with Pavel Kubina on the third pair.
Brett Connolly is expected to make his NHL debut tonight, playing on the third line with Dominic Moore and Ryan Shannon. Connolly's objective is to earn his stripes while playing the more gritty role... That, and to convince Steve Yzerman he deserves more than a 9 game look-see.
This is not a payback game for the Hurricanes, though Eric Staal and Jussi Jokinen would have fans believe it is. You can't really avenge being bounced from playoff contention during the first game of the season. Can the Hurricanes make a statement for the season ahead? Absolutely. After all, the preseason talk has been Capitals and Bolts all too often, while the Hurricanes have been erroneously dismissed. But to talk about revenge during the first of six meetings, the very first game of the season at that, seems like false drama.
Or maybe Eric is still bitter about losing the 2011 All-Star game, and blames Martin St. Louis? Whatever, Eric.