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facts & figures

Facts and Figures: Capitals-Blues in rare season-opening game

Past two Stanley Cup champs start against each other for first time since 1962-63

by John Kreiser @jkreiser7713 / Managing Editor

The past two Stanley Cup champions will face off in each team's first regular-season game for the first time since Oct. 10, 1962, when the St. Louis Blues host the Washington Capitals at Enterprise Center on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN), when the NHL drops the puck on its 102nd opening night.

The only other time in the NHL's modern era (since 1943-44) that the Stanley Cup champions from the previous two seasons have faced one another in each team's regular-season opener was when the Toronto Maple Leafs, the 1962 champion, defeated the Chicago Black Hawks, the 1961 winner, 3-1 at Maple Leaf Gardens to start the 1962-63 season. Toronto won 3-1 and went on to win the second of three consecutive championships.

Washington, the 2018 champion, won its season opener last year, defeating the Boston Bruins 7-0 at Capital One Arena. The Blues won the Cup in 2019 by defeating the Bruins in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final. Defending Stanley Cup champions are 58-25-3 with 12 ties in season openers.


Ovechkin-Backstrom combination excels on opening night

To win, the Blues will have to find a way to stop the Capitals' dynamic duo of Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom.

Ovechkin has 17 points (10 goals, seven assists) in his 14 season-opening games. Among active players, the Washington captain is tied with Minnesota Wild forward Zach Parise for the most goals in season openers and shares the points lead with San Jose Sharks center Joe Thornton. One mark for active players Ovechkin doesn't hold is the longest goal-scoring streak on opening night; Columbus Blue Jackets forward Cam Atkinson has scored a goal in five consecutive season-opening games; if he scores in Columbus' first game of the season, against Toronto at Nationwide Arena on Friday, Atkinson would match Mud Bruneteau (1940-41 through 1945-46) and Yvan Cournoyer (1973-74 through 1978-79) for the longest streak in NHL history.

Backstrom, who has spent much of his career centering a line with Ovechkin, has 14 assists in 11 season openers. That's the most of any active player.


Lightning are tops in openers

The Tampa Bay Lightning, who entered the NHL in 1992, have the best opening-night point percentage (.692; 17-7 with two ties) in NHL history. The Lightning and Vancouver Canucks each have won their past five season openers, the longest active streaks. The NHL-record winning streak in season openers is nine, set by the Montreal Canadiens from 1953-54 through 1961-62 and matched by the Blues from 1978-79 through 1986-87.

The Lightning (5-0-0), Canucks (5-0-0), Canadiens (4-0-1) and Capitals (3-0-2) share the longest active point streak in season openers dating to 2014-15. The League record is 17 consecutive season-opening games with a point, held by the Canadiens, who had 13 wins and four ties from 1963-64 through 1979-80.

The Wild host the Nashville Predators on Thursday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, NHL.TV) before traveling to Denver to face the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday in Colorado's home opener. Minnesota (.833; 13-1-3 with one tie in 18 games since entering the NHL in 2000) and Colorado (.744; 27-8-1 with three ties in 39 games since entering the NHL as the Quebec Nordiques in 1979) are first and second in League history for point percentage in home openers.


Matthews, Nilsson among fast starters 

No one has gotten an NHL season off to a faster start than Kent Nilsson of the Minnesota North Stars. He set the League record for fastest goal from the start of a season by scoring 10 seconds into Minnesota's game against Quebec on Oct. 11, 1986.

The League record for goals by one player in a season opener is five, achieved in 1917-18 by Joe Malone of the Canadiens and Harry Hyland of the Montreal Wanderers, and equaled in 1922-23 by Babe Dye of the Toronto St. Patricks. The modern-era record is four, last achieved by Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews in his NHL debut at the Ottawa Senators on Oct. 12, 2016.

There have been 56 instances of a player scoring at least three goals in a season opener. It has happened at least once to begin five of the past six seasons (four in 2017-18; two in 2016-17; two in 2015-16; one in 2014-15; and two in 2013-14). Ten active NHL players have scored at least three goals in a season opener, including all four who did so in 2017-18 -- Connor McDavid, Wayne Simmonds, Brandon Saad and Ovechkin.

Matthews has scored seven goals in his three season-opening games, and has at least one in all three. A goal against the Senators at Scotiabank Arena on Wednesday (7 p.m. ET; SN, SN360, NHL.TV) would make him the fourth player in NHL history to score in each of the first four season openers in his career. He would join Dit Clapper (1927-28 through 1930-31), Dave Andreychuk (1982-83 through 1985-86) and Sergei Fedorov (1990-91 through 1993-94).

The NHL record for assists in a season opener is five, set by Greg Adams of the New Jersey Devils at the Philadelphia Flyers on Oct. 10, 1985, and tied by John Cullen of the Pittsburgh Penguins at Washington on Oct. 5, 1990. The League record for points in a season opener is six, set by Dye (five goals, one assist) with the St. Patricks against the Canadiens on Dec. 16, 1922, and matched by Kevin Stevens of the Penguins (two goals, four assists) at Washington on Oct. 5, 1990.


Fleury, Miller could tie record for goalie wins on opening night

Marc-Andre Fleury of the Vegas Golden Knights (9-5-0) and Ryan Miller of the Anaheim Ducks (9-3-1) each need one victory to match the NHL record for career wins in season-opening games. Fleury can equal the record of 10 opening-night wins held by Curtis Joseph and Martin Brodeur when the Golden Knights host the Sharks on Wednesday (10:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TVAS). Miller and the Ducks open their season against the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday.

Fleury could also match the NHL record for shutouts in season openers. He and Jimmy Howard of the Detroit Red Wings each have two; Glenn Hall and Jacques Plante share the record with three.


Berube looks for first win in season opener

After the Blues hoist their first championship banner, coach Craig Berube will try to win on opening night for the first time. Berube is 0-1-0 in season openers (Philadelphia Flyers, 2014-15).

Six other coaches are also looking for their first NHL season-opening win: Rod Brind'Amour of the Carolina Hurricanes (0-0-1); Rick Tocchet of the Arizona Coyotes (0-3-0); Dallas Eakins of the Ducks (0-1-0) and David Quinn of the New York Rangers (0-1-0). Jeremy Colliton of the Blackhawks and D.J. Smith of the Senators will coach their first season openers.

Five coaches have yet to lose a season opener: Jared Bednar of the Avalanche (3-0-0), Travis Green of the Vancouver Canucks (2-0-0), Ralph Krueger of the Buffalo Sabres (1-0-0), Jim Montgomery of the Dallas Stars (1-0-0) and Todd Reirden of the Capitals (1-0-0).

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