NHL’S elders impress on opening weekend

NHL’S elders impress on opening weekend
January 21, 2013, 2:45 pm
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When a lockout wiped out the entire 2004-05 NHL season, the playing careers of future Hall of Famers Ron Francis, Al MacInnis and Scott Stevens all ended with little pomp and circumstance.

Eight years later, questions arose regarding another potential season-long work stoppage and what it would mean for the careers of 40-somethings like Teemu Selanne, Jaromir Jagr and Martin Brodeur.

Fortunately, the NHL returned over the weekend and so too did the game’s elder statesmen. Collectively, the 40-somethings put up impressive opening numbers and gave fans reason to believe they had gone back in time to the last 48-game season in 1995.

“It’s nice to see those older guys step up,” said 39-year-old Roman Hamrlik. “They have lots of experience and obviously Jagr and Selanne play on the power play and they can still find players or put the puck at the net.

“I know that they’re over 40, but they’re still very dangerous players- they have the hands, they’re strong on the puck and they’re working hard. It’s nice to see not just the young guys, but even the old dogs can do some damage.”

Below is some of the damage Hamrlik may be referencing:

MARTIN BRODEUR (New Jersey Devils):

Brodeur, 40, started his 18th career season opener Saturday against the New York Islanders and stopped 18-of-19 shots in New Jersey’s 2-1 win.

Among Brodeur’s teammates Saturday was Devils rookie Stefan Matteau, who was five months old when his father Stephane Matteau beat Brodeur in double overtime in Game 7 of the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals and sent the New York Rangers to the Stanley Cup.

JAROMIR JAGR (Dallas Stars):

Jagr is the NHL’s active leader in goals and points and the 40-year-old added to both totals in his Dallas debut Saturday.

The 40-year-old scored twice, assisted on the game-winner, and had a hand in all four of his team’s goals as the Stars beat the Phoenix Coyotes 4-3.

It was Jagr’s first four-point game in the NHL since Feb. 19, 2008. Among his teammates Saturday was former Capitals prospect Cody Eakin, who was a whopping one day old when Jagr and the Penguins won their first of back-to-back Stanley Cups in May 1991.

ALEX KOVALEV (Florida Panthers):

Kovalev has returned to the NHL after spending the last year and a half in the KHL, and the newest Florida Panther didn’t disappoint in the season opener.

The Panthers beat the Carolina Hurricanes 5-1, with Kovalev recording a goal and two assists. The former Ranger, Penguin, Canadien and Senator turns 40 next month.

TEEMU SELANNE (Anaheim Ducks):

Selanne began his 21st NHL season by notching two goals and two assists as Anaheim beat the Vancouver Canucks 7-3.

At 42 years and 200 days, Selanne became the oldest player to record four points in a game since Gordie Howe had a goal and three assists for the Detroit Red Wings on Feb. 20, 1971.

Selanne also had a game-high five shots on goal and three points on the power play as the Ducks’ were a perfect 3-for-3 with the man advantage.

It was Selanne’s first four point game since Nov.1, 2011 when he had two goals and two assists in a 5-4 overtime loss to the Washington Capitals.