Well, we’re all feeling pretty good today, right? The NHL has three games on the schedule tonight and, after last night’s San Jose Sharks win over the visiting Vegas Golden Knights, the bar for entertainment has been set pretty high.
What’s on tap
Toronto Maple Leafs (46-28-8) @ Boston Bruins (49-24-9)
4 p.m. PT/7 p.m. ET on NBCS and NESN
The Leafs and Bruins start Game 1 on their fated rematch tonight and, even though we’ve all known this was the match up since July, it still might be the most exciting series of the season. Separated by seven points in the standings, the new look Leafs, and their new look John Tavares, landed in an unfortunate position, facing what might be the second-best team in the NHL in the first round.
Carolina Hurricanes (46-29-7) @ Washington Capitals (48-26-8)
4:30 p.m. PT/7:30 p.m. ET, on USA, FSCR and NSWA
The analytics darlings of the NHL start Game 1 against the defending Stanley Cup champions. This could be a battle of shot quantity versus shot quality, as the ‘Canes placed first and second in expected goals share and shot attempt share, respectively, during the regular season, and the Caps held first and second in goals per game and in shooting percentage. Carolina is hot, having won the second most games since the new year began and scoring the second most goals at 150.
Colorado Avalanche (38-30-14) @ Calgary Flames (50-25-7)
7 p.m. PT/10 p.m. ET on NBCS
Not only did the Avalanche finish with fewer points than the Montreal Canadiens, who are already setting their tee times, they did it with 14 loser points, standing as the only playoff team with more losses than wins. There may be a real conversation that this is the biggest mismatch in the playoffs, depending upon how mean you are about the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Well, nobody, yet, but we can highlight some players with strong finishes to the regular season to keep an eye on.
David Pastrnak: The man they call Pasta finished the season streaking, sitting second among playoff qualified players in his team’s last ten games with 15 points. The Leafs will be hard pressed to shut down Boston’s top line, and have to hope Tavares can do a better job of it than the memory of Nazem Kadri did last year.
Teuvo Teravainen: If the Hurricanes make this a series with the Caps or, God forbid, win it, it could serve as a coming out party for their Scandinavian scorers. Teravainen may be one of the more underrated players in the league, and finished the season with ten points in as many games. Along with Sebastian Aho, the ‘Canes have a scary one-two punch that may be able to rival Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov. Maybe.
Tyson Barrie: While everyone else is watching Johnny Gaudreau casting spells and dancing through in between Tyson Jost’s legs, you, smart viewer, will be keeping an eye on the breakout play of Tyson Barrie. Barrie has established himself as a legitimate threat on the blueline over the past two seasons, scoring 57 and 59 points, respectively, both career highs. His deployment against Calgary’s top line will be fascinating.
Leafs-Bruins. This is the marquee match up of the East, and promises at least as many fireworks and star plays as last season’s. Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, Patrick Marleau, it’s a slam dunk.
What are you watching?