Each Monday, we list the can’t-miss games for the upcoming week. Grab your remote. This is “NHL What to Watch.”
Tight matchup in tight race
Pittsburgh Penguins at Washington Capitals
Tuesday, 7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN360, SNW, SNP, NBCSWA, ATTSN-PT, NHL.TV
Thursday, 7:30 p.m. ET; ESPN+, TVAS, NBCSWA, ATTSN-PT, NHL.TV
The Penguins and Capitals are in a tight race in the MassMutual East Division, in terms of positioning for the Stanley Cup Playoffs and making the playoffs altogether, so these points will be precious and hotly contested.
These teams have played each other four times this season. Pittsburgh won the first three games, including one in a shootout and another in overtime. Washington won the most recent game.
Forward Jake Guentzel leads the Penguins with six points (two goals, four assists) against the Capitals. Forwards Bryan Rust and Sidney Crosby each have five points (two goals, three assists).
Forwards Evgeny Kuznetsov (two goals, two assists) and Alex Ovechkin (one goal, three assists) lead the Capitals with four points each against the Penguins.
Another test for Flyers
New York Rangers at Philadelphia Flyers
Wednesday, 7 p.m. ET; NBCSN
When these teams played at Wells Fargo Center on Thursday, the Rangers hadn’t won in four games. But the Flyers had their previous four games postponed due to COVID-19 protocols and were missing six players, including top-six forwards Claude Giroux, Travis Konecny, Oskar Lindblom and Jakub Voracek.
The Rangers won 3-2 in a shootout.
This time, the Rangers have won two games in a row and the Flyers are coming a 7-2 loss to the Boston Bruins at Lake Tahoe in the Honda NHL Outdoors Sunday. As of Sunday, they still had the same players unavailable due to the COVID-19 protocols.
Do the Rangers catch them at the right time again?
Brother vs. brother
Calgary Flames at Ottawa Senators
Thursday, 7 p.m. ET; TSN5, RDS2, SNW, NHL.TV
Saturday, 1 p.m. ET; TSN5, RDS, SNW, NHL. TV
Matthew and Brady Tkachuk have been rivals since Brady was born a couple of years after Matthew. They used to brawl in the St. Louis Blues locker room while their father, Keith, played for the Blues.
Once, Brady broke his finger, and it didn’t faze him. Another time, Matthew checked Brady in the wives’ room after a Blues win, Brady’s forehead hit the coach, and Keith had to take him to the Blues training staff for repairs.
“That’s the legendary story, I guess, that nobody’s going to forget,” Matthew once said. “I’d like to forget it, but everyone always brings it up.”
We bring it up again because this will be a new chapter in the rivalry. For the first time, the brothers will play each other as NHL division rivals; and these are the first two of nine games against each other this season.
Stat of the week
3 — The number of points each of the Tkachuk brothers has in their four NHL games against each other. Brady has bragging rights when it comes to goals, though. He has two to Matthew’s one.
Division race meets scoring race
Toronto Maple Leafs at Edmonton Oilers
Saturday, 7 p.m. ET; NHLN, CBC, SN, CITY, TVAS, NHL. TV
How great is this? “Hockey Night in Canada.” Top two teams in the Scotia North Division. Top four scorers in the NHL. Two of the top goal-scorers in the NHL.
Oilers center Connor McDavid leads the NHL with 37 points (12 goals, 25 assists). Next is teammate Leon Draisaitl (10 goals, 20 assists) and Maple Leafs forward Mitchell Marner (nine goals, 21 assists) with 30 points each. After that? Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews with 29 points (18 goals, 11 assists).
Matthews leads the NHL in goals. McDavid is tied for second with Vancouver Canucks forward Brock Boeser. In the 10 games they have played against each other, Matthews has 16 points (five goals, 11 assists); McDavid has eight points (six goals, two assists).
Toe to toe
Boston Bruins at New York Rangers
Sunday, 12 p.m. ET; NBC, SN
Boston and New York were in the American Division from 1926-38, went head to head when the NHL had no divisions from 1938-67, and were in the East Division from 1967-74. But that was the last time they were division rivals until now.
The Bruins are 2-0-0 against the Rangers this season, but both games were close. They defeated them 3-2 at Madison Square Garden on Feb. 10 when Brad Marchand scored 36 seconds into overtime, then 1-0 there two days later on a goal by Nick Ritchie.
“This is a team that’s competing for the Stanley Cup and built to win right now,” Rangers coach David Quinn said about the Bruins after the second game. “We have a ton of respect for the way they play. They play the right way and we can learn an awful lot of lessons from them, but I was proud of the way we stood toe-to-toe with them.”