Welcome to the NHL on Tap. Three NHL.com writers will share what they are most looking forward to on the schedule each day. Today, their choices from the two games Wednesday.
Original Six rivals play first of two this week
The oldest rivalry is the NHL is renewed when the Toronto Maple Leafs visit the Montreal Canadiens (7:30 p.m. ET; SN, RDS, NHL.TV). It’s the first of their two games this week — they play again in Toronto on Saturday — and though it’s early in the season, the two teams are in a close race for first in the Scotia North Division. The Maple Leafs (10-2-1) lead the NHL and the division with 21 points, three ahead of the Canadiens (8-2-2). Toronto is looking for its fourth straight win and forward Auston Matthews will try to score a goal in his ninth straight game, the longest active streak in the NHL. I’ll be most intrigued when/if the Maple Leafs go on the power play, where they lead the NHL at 38.1 percent (8-for-21 in six games) on the road. Fearsome to be sure, but the Canadiens have scored an NHL-high seven shorthanded goals with three coming in their five home games. — Dave Stubbs, columnist
Georgiev back in for Rangers vs. Bruins
Goalie Alexandar Georgiev, who turns 25 on Wednesday, will start when the New York Rangers host the Boston Bruins (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TVAS). It will be Georgiev’s first appearance since his altercation with defenseman Tony DeAngelo in the hallway leading to the Rangers dressing room following a 5-4 overtime loss against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Jan. 30. DeAngelo was waived the following day, and after clearing waivers 24 hours later general manager Jeff Gorton said he would not play for New York again. Georgiev spent the 10 days between starts getting over the incident and working on his game. He said he’s moved on and coach David Quinn said the Rangers have too. What’s important for them is playing a faster and crisper game than they played in a 2-0 loss to the New York Islanders on Monday. For Georgiev, it’s about getting into a rhythm. He’s allowed 12 goals in three starts (4.50 goals-against average, .854 save percentage) since a 23-save shutout in a 4-0 win against the Islanders on Jan. 16. — Dan Rosen, senior writer
Measuring-stick games in Scotia North
Though the battle for first in the North Division is intriguing, what fascinates me more is the tug of war that may eventually decide which team gets the upper hand, Toronto’s forwards against Montreal’s formidable group of defensemen and goalie Carey Price. Matthews has scored 10 of his 11 goals this season in his past eight games, even when opponents know exactly what he can do. Montreal’s defensemen have been building cohesion and the size of its top four in Shea Weber (6-foot-4, 229 pounds), Joel Edmundson (6-4, 227), Ben Chiarot (6-3, 234) and Jeff Petry (6-3, 208), not to mention their ability, is no small obstacle. The Maple Leafs won 5-4 in overtime in the season opener Jan. 13 and the intrigue builds from here. – Tim Campbell, staff writer
Boston Bruins at New York Rangers, 7 p.m. ET (NBCSN, TVAS)
The Bruins, first in the MassMutual East Division, have won three in a row, all with comebacks in the third period.
Toronto Maple Leafs at Montreal Canadiens, 7:30 p.m. ET (SN, RDS, NHL.TV)
The second of 10 games between the top two teams in the North Division. The first-place Maple Leafs have won three in a row.