Three-peat watch

Back-to-back Stanley Cups is an impressive feat in any era, but three in a row is unprecedented in today's NHL.

But with one of the best goalies, defensemen and scorers in the game, lightning could strike one more time for Tampa Bay to solidify the league's next dynasty.

Led by captain Steven Stamkos, Andrei Vasilevskiy, Victor Hedman and Nikita Kucherov, the Lightning has the talent and experience to make another run and outlast challengers like the New York Islanders, Colorado and Vegas.

If that happens, Tampa Bay will be the first franchise to capture three straight Stanley Cups since the Islanders had a four-year tear from 1980-1983.

Cue the Kraken

The NHL's 32nd franchise has arrived, with Seattle debuting against the league's last expansion club Tuesday night.

Vegas thrived in its first year, advancing all the way to the Stanley Cup Final in a masterful show of roster construction and team chemistry. That will be a tough act to follow, but the Kraken did land one of the offseason's top free agents in goaltender Philipp Grubauer.

What could also ease the transition is the competition.

Seattle plays out of the Pacific Division, which is saddled with rebuilding teams like Anaheim, Arizona and Los Angeles.

Chasing Gretzky

Alex Ovechkin could surpass some of hockey's icons this season as he resumes his climb up the NHL's all-time leading goals list.

The Capitals superstar ranks sixth with 730 goals, one shy of Marcel Dionne for fifth place. Brett Hull is next with 741, and Jaromir Jagr sits third with 766.

Eclipsing Jagr is feasible this season considering Ovechkin's production in recent years; last season, he potted 24 in just 45 games. During the NHL's last 82-game slate, in 2018-19, Ovechkin scored 51.

By moving into third place, Ovechkin would trail only Gordie Howe (801) and Wayne Gretzky (894).

This historic march is continuing after Ovechkin signed a five-year contract with Washington in the offseason.

Familiar setup

After the COVID-19 pandemic forced the NHL to adopt a shortened 56-game, division-only schedule, a return to more normal conditions is on deck.

The season is back to 82 games, and all teams will play each other and visit every arena at least once. Previous divisions will be reintroduced, and the playoffs will once again be comprised of the top three teams in each division along with two wild-card berths from each conference.

Still, signs of the times are clear.

Protocols for players vary depending on their vaccination status, and some arenas will require fans to provide proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test to attend games.

Breaking for the Olympics

For the first time since 2014, NHLers are set to play in the Winter Olympics next year in Beijing.

While the league could still revoke its consent if COVID-19 becomes an issue, all indications point to players participating; already, countries have started to shape their rosters with NHL players.

The Games will be a new stage for some of the league's stars, like Edmonton's Connor McDavid (Canada) and Toronto's Auston Matthews (United States).

Before the NHL breaks for two-plus weeks, the league will hold its own showcase by relaunching the All-Star Game in Las Vegas.