With a compressed schedule this year there is a tasty menu of NHL games to decide between every night. But which one should you watch? Do you choose the best matchup between good teams or do you look for a game that offers potential Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft targets?
It can be a tough call when there are six or seven every night.
Don’t despair. We have you covered with this week’s Games on the Radar, so get some snacks, find a comfy couch, and enjoy the hockey.
Montreal Canadiens versus Toronto Maple Leafs
When: Wednesday, 4:30 P.M. Pacific on NHLTV and Saturday 4:00 P.M. Pacific on NHL Network, CBC
It’s been a while since two of the more storied franchises in the NHL were both top teams at the same time. That adds to the promise of great hockey during a crucial home-and-home match up between the pair this week. The Maple Leafs come in holding a three-point lead in the Scotia North Division over Montreal while the Canadiens have a game in hand.
This week’s pair of contests will be the first since the two entertained with a thriller on opening night, January 13th. In that game, Toronto’s Jimmy Vesey scored midway through the third period to tie the back-and-forth game at 4-4. The contest would be decided in overtime when Morgan Rielly converted on a two-on-one break to give the Maple Leafs the win.
Fast forward a month and the two clubs are among the best in the NHL. There’s a lot going on in these two games so they will be well worth propping your feet up and enjoying.
Players to watch
Toronto’s Mitch Marner comes into the week third in NHL scoring with 21 points in 13 games, but he’s not alone in the Maple Leafs attack. His running mate, Auston Matthews, has scored 11 times in 12 games. Can he score 40 in this year’s shortened season? He’s getting just over four shots a game and converting on an incredible 21.2 percent which gives him a chance.
Goalie Carey Price is the marquee name in the Montreal net, but it’s been backup Jake Allen who has starred early for the Canadiens. In his five starts he’s won four times while posting a .940 save percentage. Not bad for the number two goalie who, by-the-way, could be on the Seattle Kraken radar at the Expansion Draft.
Montreal’s Tyler Toffoli has as many goals as Matthews does and has been a great free agency pick-up. Of his 12 goals, eight have come against Toffoli’s former team, the Vancouver Canucks. Can he keep it up against different clubs?
The Seattle Kraken watchlist
Outside of Allen, Kraken fans should keep an eye on Montreal’s Jonathan Drouin, Phillip Danault, Shea Weber, Victor Mete, and Cale Fleury as potential players who may be available to Seattle at the Expansion Draft.
On the Leafs ledger, players like Justin Holl or Travis Dermott on the back end could end up with the Kraken. Wayne Simmonds might also be a free-agent target for the Kraken, but he is out with a broken wrist so Seattle fans should keep an eye on Vesey who is also a free agent of note.
Tampa Bay Lightning versus Florida Panthers
When: Thursday, 4:00 P.M. Pacific on NHL.tv and Saturday, 4 P.M. Pacific ESPN+
With an 8-1-1 record starting the week, the defending Stanley Cup Champion Tampa Bay Lightning are right where you’d expect to see them, leading the Discover Central. They’re looking down on the division again, but a new face sits just three points behind them. That face is mascot look-alike head coach Joel Quenneville and the Florida Panthers.
Yes, the Panthers.
Florida is off to an impressive and somewhat surprising 6-1-2 start that puts them in playoff contention within the division. The two games between the Florida rivals will be a big test for the upstart Panthers. Are they for real? We will get a clue this week.
Players to watch
With Florida playing well it must mean that goalie Sergei Bobrovsky has regained his form, right? Well, not quite. Bobrovsky has won three of his four starts this season but his save percentage is a worrisome .881. Instead, Chris Driedger has been stellar. He has five starts for Florida and a 1.97 goals-against average with a .937 save percentage. That’s good and he could end up being an unsung hero for the Panthers.
Former Lightning Carter Verhaeghe is off to a strong six-goal and nine-point start for Florida and should be motivated against his old club.
Tampa Bay is still loaded and so good that they’re almost boring. Captain Steven Stamkos is healthy and leading the Lightning in scoring along with Brayden Point. The pair both have 11 points in their first 10 games and are leading the charge. Defenseman Victor Hedman and goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy are already on form and always worth watching.
The Seattle Kraken watchlist
The same depth that makes the Lightning so tough to beat will benefit the Kraken as Tampa Bay can’t protect everyone. Some good players will be available so keep an eye on Alex Killorn, Tyler Johnson, Yanni Gourde, and Ondrej Palat. It’s best to just marvel at all the Lightning.
Patric Hornqvist is off to a good start for Florida and potentially an Expansion Draft exposure. On defense, watch Anton Stralman or former Everett Silvertip Radko Gudas as two more potential Kraken targets.
Other NHL games of note
Columbus Blue Jackets versus Chicago Blackhawks: Thursday, 5:00 P.M. Pacific on NHL.tv. It has been a dramatic start to the season for the Blue Jackets and not because of what is happening on the ice. Head coach John Tortorella is taking no guff this season and has already benched newly acquired Patrik Laine.
Detroit Red Wings versus Nashville Predators: Thursday, 5:00 P.M. Pacific on NHL.tv. Detroit is not a good hockey team, but this game is attractive from a Kraken Expansion Draft perspective. Forward Givani Smith was recently recalled and off to a four-point start. He is the most attractive forward from Detroit and may be exposed.