What to Watch: Canadiens face Maple Leafs in potential playoff preview



Feeling Minnesota

Colorado Avalanche at Minnesota Wild

Monday, 8 p.m. ET; ESPN+, BSN+, BSWI+, ALT, NHL.TV

Wednesday, 9 p.m. ET; ESPN+, BSN+, BSWI+, ALT, NHL.TV

The Wild return to Xcel Energy Center looking to extend their team-record home winning streak to 12 games.

They’ve trailed for 41:23 of 665:17 over their 11-game run on home ice and allowed two or fewer goals in each of their past six. They have not lost at home since Jan. 30, when they fell 5-1 to the …

The Avalanche, who lead the Honda West Division, have the best record in the NHL (.730 points percentage) and the most potent offense (3.57 goals per game).


Beasts of the East

Washington Capitals at New York Islanders

Tuesday, 7 p.m. ET; MSG+ 2, NBCSWA, NHL.TV

The Capitals were 3-0-0 against the Islanders this season, outscoring them 12-6.

Then came last Thursday.

The Islanders made a statement with an 8-4 win at Nassau Coliseum. Mathew Barzal put on a show with a hat trick and two assists, scoring on a wrist shot after skating the length of the ice, then on a spin-o-rama, then by swatting a puck out of the air.

“We’re obviously pretty familiar with them, and they’re familiar with us,” Islanders forward Jordan Eberle said afterward. “If you want to go all the way, this is a team that you have to go through, so it’s good to stand your ground on your home ice.”

Yep. Now the Islanders have to do it again. The Capitals (25-9-4) lead the MassMutual East Division, two points ahead of the second-place Islanders (24-10-4).


Playoff time

Philadelphia Flyers vs. Boston Bruins

Monday, 7 p.m. ET; NHLN, NESN, NBCSP, NHL.TV

Tuesday, 7 p.m. ET; SN360, NBCSP, NESN, NHL.TV

Saturday, 2 p.m. ET; ESPN+, SN1, NBCSP, NESN, NHL.TV

Craving a return to normalcy? This might help.

Ordinarily, absent a coronavirus pandemic, the Stanley Cup Playoffs would be beginning about now. Well, the Flyers and Bruins will play what will amount to a mini playoff series this week.

The top four teams in each of the four divisions will make the playoffs. The Bruins (19-10-5) are fourth in the East and the Flyers (17-14-5) are tied with the New York Rangers for fifth. They play in Boston on Monday, then Philadelphia on Tuesday and Saturday.

The Bruins could give themselves a bigger cushion, or the Flyers could close the gap or even put themselves in a playoff spot if they can turn things around. Philadelphia is 6-10-2 since March 1 and 0-3-0 against Boston this season while being outscored 23-13.


Test for the Panthers

Florida Panthers at Carolina Hurricanes

Tuesday, 7 p.m. ET; BSSO, BSFL, NHL.TV

Thursday, 7 p.m. ET; BSSO, BSFL, NHL.TV

The Panthers (26-9-4) have won six straight games and sit atop the NHL standings with 56 points.

Problem is, they play in the Discover Central Division. They’re two points ahead of the Tampa Bay Lightning (26-10-2), who have one game in hand, and three ahead of the Hurricanes (25-9-3), who have two games in hand.

The Hurricanes are 3-0-1 against the Panthers this season.

The good news for Florida? The games have been tight. Two went to overtime, one to a shootout. Carolina won the last game 4-2 on March 7.


“Hockey Night in Canada” … in America

Montreal Canadiens at Toronto Maple Leafs

Wednesday, 7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, RDS

“Wednesday Night Hockey” on NBCSN will feel like a “Hockey Night in Canada” doubleheader, showcasing the Scotia North Division to an American audience.

First it’s the Edmonton Oilers at the Ottawa Senators (5 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TVAS, TSN5, SNW). Oilers forwards Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl are one-two in the scoring race, McDavid with 64 points (22 goals, 42 assists) and Draisaitl with 56 (19 goals, 37 assists).

Then it’s Montreal at Toronto. Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews leads the NHL with 25 goals. He has scored 24 points (14 goals, 10 assists) in 18 games against the Canadiens in his NHL career. His 1.33 points per game is the highest of any active player against Montreal (minimum 15 games played).

The Canadiens (16-9-9) are in fourth place. The Maple Leafs (25-10-3) are in first, which means if the playoffs started today, these Original Six rivals would face off in the playoffs for the first time since 1979. 

Yes, please. Please, please, please …


Stat of the week

50 — The number of games against the Maple Leafs that Canadiens goalie Carey Price will reach if he plays Wednesday. He has 27 wins against Toronto, including four shutouts. The most wins he has against an opponent is 28 against Ottawa.

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