The Wraparound: Leafs need to ‘just play harder’ in Game 3

The Wraparound is your daily look at the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. We’ll break down each day’s matchups with the all-important television and live streaming information included.

As if a series against the Boston Bruins wasn’t difficult enough, the Toronto Maple Leafs will face an additional test now that they’ll likely be without Nazem Kadri in Game 3 of the best-of-seven series. (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN; Live stream)

Kadri will have an in-person hearing today for his cross-check to the head of Bruins forward Jake DeBrusk. Anytime the Department of Player Safety offers you an in-person hearing, you’re looking at a longer suspension. So without Kadri at his disposal, Leafs head coach Mike Babcock will likely move Patrick Marleau or William Nylander to center.

One of the keys to Toronto’s success is the production they get from their centers. Kadri found a way to accumulate two points in two games in this series, but Auston Matthews is still searching for his first point. The pressure has been on him already, but without Kadri he’ll need to take his game to another level as soon as Game 3.

In Game 1, he was on the ice for 15 shot attempts for and 19 against (CF% of 44.12). In Game 2, the 21-year-old was on the ice 19 shot attempts for and 27 against (41.3 percent). One area in which he improved from Game 1 to 2 was in the scoring chances department. In the first game, his team didn’t have a high-danger scoring chance with him on the ice and they gave up four. On Saturday night, Matthews was on the ice for five high-danger scoring chances for and three against. Improvement (all stats via Natural Stat Trick)

One thing the Leafs have going for them, is that they’re going back home, which means Babcock will have last change. Can he get Matthews easier matchups in the next two games of series?

And this isn’t just on Matthews’ shoulders. The Leafs need a better effort from top to bottom if they’re going to take a lead in this series after Game 3.

“We need to get into them instead of letting them get into us,” Babcock said, per the Toronto Sun. “Getting off to that start and establishing your game first and just playing harder.

“I thought they played harder than we did (in Game 2), I thought we played harder than them the (game) before. The series is now a best of five, it’s in our building, we need to establish our game first (in Game 3).”

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

TODAY’S SCHEDULE

Game 3: Capitals at Hurricanes, 7 p.m. ET (Capitals lead 2-0): Hurricanes fans will get their first live taste of playoff hockey in a long time. If their team has any shot of coming back in this series, they’ll have to find a way to get the job done on home ice tonight. Falling behind 3-0 in a best-of-seven series against the defending Stanley Cup Champions is never a good idea, so they have to come out ready to go from the start. (CNBC, Live stream)

Game 3: Predators at Stars, 9:30 p.m. ET (series tied 1-1): The Stars found a way to win Game 1 on the road and they managed to force overtime in Game 2. You’d have to think that they’re fairly confident now that the series is heading back to Dallas tonight. The big question mark in this series is the Predators’ power play. Can they get it going before it’s too late? (NBCSN, Live stream)

Game 3: Flames at Avalanche, 10 p.m. ET (series tied 1-1): Even though the Avs failed to find the back of the net in Game 1, they’re still heading home all tied up in this best-of-seven series thanks to an OT goal by Nathan MacKinnon. Colorado isn’t as deep as Calgary, but they have enough high-end talent to make this interesting. (CNBC, Live stream)

NHL Live, hosted by Liam McHugh, Keith Jones and Keith Yandle, begins at 6 p.m. ET on NBCSN. Paul Burmeister, Patrick Sharp and Anson Carter will anchor CNBC’s studio coverage throughout the Capitals-Hurricanes and Flames-Avalanche games.

Florida Panthers defenseman Keith Yandle will join NBC Sports’ Stanley Cup Playoffs coverage as a guest studio analyst today, April 15, and Tuesday, April 16. A 13-year NHL veteran, Yandle played parts of nine seasons with the Coyotes organization, including the first seven games of his NHL career during the 2006-07 season, when he skated alongside former Coyote and current NHL on NBC analyst Jeremy Roenick. Yandle was Florida’s representative at the 2019 NHL All-Star Game, and recently completed his third season as a member of the Panthers where he currently serves as an alternate captain.

TUESDAY’S SCHEDULE: 
Game 4: Lightning at Blue Jackets, 7 p.m. ET (CNBC)
Game 4: Penguins at Islanders, 7:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
Game 4: Jets at Blues, 9:30 p.m. ET (CNBC)
Game 4: Sharks at Golden Knights, 10:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN)

PHT’s 2019 Stanley Cup playoff previews
Capitals vs Hurricanes
Islanders vs. Penguins

Bruins vs. Maple Leafs
Lightning vs. Blue Jackets

Predators vs. Stars
Blues vs. Jets
Flames vs. Avalanche
Sharks vs. Golden Knights

Power Rankings: Why your team won’t win the Stanley Cup
• 
Roundtable: Goaltending issues, challenging the Lightning
NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs: Round 1 schedule, TV info

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

The Buzzer: Stars Wars Storm Surge; Bob beats Blue Jackets

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Three Stars

1. Sebastian Aho, Carolina Hurricanes

Heading into Saturday, Aho only scored in one goal (a goal and an assist) in his past five contests. He made up for that dry spell in a big way against the Wild, generating a hat trick plus two assists.

His third goal was an empty-netter, but Aho’s first tally ended up being the game-winner. Aho was really clicking with Teuvo Teravainen, who finished the night with three assists.

Aho now has 27 points through his first 30 games in 2019-20.

2. Alex Killorn, Tampa Bay Lightning

The Lightning made life miserable for the Sharks on Saturday, feasting by way of a 7-1 score.

Killorn was a big part of that, generating a goal and three assists for four points. Killorn now has three goals and three assists for six points during a three-game streak, giving Killorn 22 points in 25 games in 2019-20.

As effective as Killorn has been over the years, his career-high is 47 points. Chances are, he’s going to slow down (example a 15.7 shooting percentage so far this season, against a 10.5 career average), but if reasonably healthy, Killorn should blow that previous number out of the water.

There were other Lightning players who played really well, as you’d expect from a blowout. Steven Stamkos ranked among those who collected three points, while Andrei Vasilevskiy made 37 saves to exaggerate the distance between the two teams.

3. Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins

Really, you can take your pick between Malkin and Jake Guentzel, as they both enjoyed one-goal, two-assist nights on Saturday, and they both clearly play off each other quite well. As much as Guentzel has been conjoined to Sidney Crosby during his young (and underappreciated) career, it seems like he can click with Malkin, too. Obviously, it’s not difficult to transition from one “NHL 100” player to another who should have made the “NHL 100,” yet … we’ve seen wingers who cannot find chemistry with one or more of Malkin and Crosby. So credit to Guentzel for being deadly with both, and likely making life a little easier for each of them.

Malkin now has a fantastic 26 points in just 19 games, and may very well have his biggest year in a while if he can stay healthy — an uncomfortably familiar phrase for the Penguins for quite some time. (Heck, even spanning back to Mario Lemieux.)

Guentzel now has 31 points in 30 games, and a solid chance to exceed last season’s excellent career-high of 76 points.

Highlight of the Night

Uh, you think the Kings were expecting Johnny Gaudreau to pass when he did? (Don’t lie.) This is just a tremendous combination of speed, skill, and vision as he set up Sean Monahan:

Star Wars Storm Surge

Yay or nay on the Star Wars-themed Storm Surge from the Hurricanes? I’d say solid enough, although it lacked a Bunch of Baby Yoda so … maybe not ideal.

Factoids

  • The Blue Jackets spoiled Sergei Bobrovsky‘s shutout bid a bit more than halfway through the third period. Still, Bob had a strong night with 33 saves. Hot take: Columbus is still probably relieved to not be spending to the tune of Bob’s $10M AAV, considering how infrequently Bob has looked this good.
  • NHL PR notes that the Avalanche extended a point streak to 14 games, while they also gave the Bruins their first regulation loss at home this season.
  • Brady Tkachuk received a fine from the Department of Player Safety for cross-checking Scott Laughton. More on that wild game here.
  • A bit esoteric, but interesting, from NHL PR: Jack Eichel and Connor McDavid are the fifth pair to generate at least 300 points each in 320 games or fewer. They’re the first pairing to pull that off since Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin.

Scores

PHI 4 – OTT 3
VAN 6 – BUF 5 (OT)
COL 4 – BOS 1
PIT 5 – DET 3
TBL 7 – SJS 1
FLA 4 – CBJ 1
CAR 6 – MIN 2
TOR 5 – STL 2
NSH 6 – NJD 4
DAL 3 – NYI 1
CGY 4 – LAK 3

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

P.K. Subban gets a warm tribute during his return to Nashville

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It would have been silly for Nashville Predators fans to boo P.K. Subban during his return to “Smashville.”

Subban didn’t choose to be traded from Montreal to Nashville, and he didn’t elect to be sent from Nashville to the New Jersey Devils, either.

Sports fans aren’t always so rational, though. Really, it makes sense: spending so much money, time, and emotional energy on a game isn’t exactly the most rational thing to do. So there was some concern about how Subban would be received, especially since he’s already booed in an honestly uncomfortably large number of NHL arenas already.

Subban and others can breathe a sigh of relief, though, as while not everyone greeted Subban with open arms in as literal a way as Roman Josi did with their hug on Saturday, the team gave Subban a fantastic welcome back tribute video:

Not only does that video include some of Subban’s great moments during his three seasons with the Predators (that Stanley Cup Final appearance, a Norris Trophy win), it also captures some of the off-the-ice qualities that make Subban so fun and entertaining (and make people sometimes get perplexingly, maybe troublingly mad about him). He got up and decided to sing some Johnny Cash upon arriving in Nashville, was a fantastic charitable presence, and was a lot of fun.

(No Listerine was spilled in the making of the ad, but you can’t have it all.)

Anyway, good on the Predators and their fans for welcoming P.K. back.

As a reminder, Montreal Canadiens fans greeted him with love upon his return, too:

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Avs’ rising star Cale Makar shaken by hit from Bruins’ Marchand

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The Colorado Avalanche have done a masterful job, for the most part, when it comes to rolling with injury-related punches to key players such as Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog. They have to hope that Saturday didn’t send another such haymaker their way.

Rising star defenseman Cale Makar (who just fell under a point per game on Saturday with 28 in 29 contests) was clearly shaken up by a hard hit by Boston Bruins forward Brad Marchand.

It didn’t seem like a heinous hit by Marchand, although there are some who wonder if it was a bit high.

Either way, Makar’s reaction is troubling. You can see him shake his head multiple times following the hit, which gives the impression that he could have suffered a concussion. That doesn’t guarantee that Makar did, but it’s a situation to watch — and one the Avalanche should absolutely be careful about.

The Avalanche ended up beating the Bruins 4-1 on Saturday.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Laila Anderson, bone marrow donor attend Blues game

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If it got a “little dusty” at the Enterprise Center in St. Louis on Saturday, that’s understandable, because the continued story of Laila Anderson meeting Kenton Felmlee, her bone marrow donor, is sure to make most get a case of heightened allergies.

(Is that a leak from the ceiling? /Sobs)

Anyway, Felmlee was Anderson’s guest during Saturday’s Toronto Maple Leafs – St. Louis Blues game, giving the two another chance to bond, and beyond that, for Anderson to thank Felmlee for helping her in her battle with the rare immune disease HLH.

It’s great stuff, even if the actual Blues game isn’t going so great for St. Louis.

This longer clip from their first meeting earlier this week is worth watching, unless you don’t want people to see you openly weeping’n’stuff:

(Personally, I’d say it’s worth it.)

MORE ON LAILA ANDERSON AND THE BLUES:

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.