We’re officially on to the second week of the 2021-22 NHL season and two early-season marquee matchups are on the ESPN schedule on Tuesday. At 7 p.m. ET on ESPN+ and Hulu, the Colorado Avalanche will visit the Washington Capitals, while the Chicago Blackhawks will host the New York Islanders at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN.
To help get you ready for the matchup, we’ve put together a guide on all the key players to watch for both teams, in-depth statistical insights on the teams from ESPN Stats & Information, and more.
This season, ESPN+ will broadcast 75 exclusive regular-season games, with ABC and ESPN airing a combined 28 exclusive regular-season contests for a total of 103 games. The complete broadcast schedule can be found here.
Leading scorer: Nazem Kadri (4 points)
Since the start of last season, Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar averages 36 seconds of possession time per game at or just inside the blue line of the offensive zone, which is tied for the second-highest average among defensemen in that span with Adam Fox, trailing Quinn Hughes of the Canucks (38 seconds).
With Nathan MacKinnon missing to start the season due to being in the COVID-19 protocol, Mikko Rantanen has picked up the slack in terms of shot attempts from the between the dots, averaging seven per game so far in that area this season (4.62 per game in 2020-21).
The Avalanche had to dress 19 players in Saturday’s loss to the Blues. MacKinnon and Jack Johnson were in the COVID-19 protocol while Gabriel Landeskog was serving the first of his two-game boarding suspension from his hit on Chicago’s Kirby Dach on Wednesday. Coach Jared Bednar did return after he was in the COVID-19 protocol, which caused him to miss the season opener.
Leading scorer: Alex Ovechkin (5 points)
Ovechkin recently passed Marcel Dionne for fifth on the all-time goals list, with 733. Ovechkin now stands 162 goals away from breaking Wayne Gretzky’s all-time record. If Ovechkin maintains his 0.61 career goals-per-game pace, he would need 266 games to break the record, which would be sometime during the 2024-25 season (assuming he plays every single game in that span).
Ovechkin needs 34 more goals to pass Jaromir Jagr for third on the all-time list. If he were to do that this season, it would give him at least 37 for the season. He has scored at least 37 goals in a season 12 times.
Since Braden Holtby‘s departure following the 2019-20 season, the Capitals have primarily gone with 25-year-old Vitek Vanecek and 24-year-old Ilya Samsonov in goal. Since the start of last season, Vanecek’s save percentage ranks 27th (.909) and Samsonov ranks 40th (.902) among 59 goalies with 15 games played.
Leading scorer: Kyle Palmieri (2 points)
The Islanders had a point percentage of .804 at home and .464 on the road during last regular season. It was the largest home-to-road points percentage difference (.340) since the Kings (.396) and Sharks (.438) in 2012-13.
The Islanders recently locked up two of their defensemen to long-term deals: Adam Pelech signed an eight-year, $46 million contract on Aug. 6 and Ryan Pulock signed an eight-year, $49.2 million contract extension on Oct. 14, which starts next season. Since the start of 2017-18, Pulock leads Isles defensemen with 121 points and Pelech is third with 63.
Zdeno Chara signed a one-year deal with the Isles on Sept. 18. He was a third-round pick of the Islanders in 1996 and played his first four NHL seasons with the team. There are five players on the current Islanders roster who were born after Chara’s draft date of June 22, 1996: Mathew Barzal (5/26/97), Anthony Beauvillier (6/8/97), Kieffer Bellows (6/10/98), Noah Dobson (1/7/00) and Oliver Wahlstrom (6/13/00).
Chara has played 1,610 regular-season games, which is two shy of tying Ray Bourque for fourth all time among defensemen. The all-time record (Chris Chelios, with 1,651) is well within his reach this season.
Leading scorer: Patrick Kane (4 points)
The Blackhawks are winless in their first three games and they have yet to have the lead in any of them. They have been down by multiple goals at some point in all three. It is the second straight season and fifth time in team history they’ve gone winless and did not have the lead in their first three games. The other seasons were 1991-92, 1985-86 and 1928-29. There has never been an instance in team history where they’ve gone winless and didn’t have the lead in their first four games.
Winger Kane and defenseman Seth Jones were two of the first three players named to the U.S. Olympic team at the upcoming Winter Olympics in Beijing.
Kane has won the Calder (Rookie of the year), Hart (MVP), Art Ross (top point scorer) and Conn Smythe (playoff MVP) trophies in his career. The only other players to win all of those honors: Mario Lemieux, Evgeni Malkin, Bobby Orr, Ovechkin and Bryan Trottier.