The Wraparound: Maple Leafs, Canadiens open final First Round series

The Wraparound is your daily look at the 2021 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs. We’ll break down the NHL playoff games today with the all-important television and live streaming information included.

•  Four games at up today, including the first game of Maple Leafs – Canadiens, and the Lightning look to take a 3-0 series lead on Florida.

• Want to catch up on each night’s action in the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs? Read the NHL Playoff Buzzer.

It’s what the people have been waiting for — Maple Leafs vs. Canadiens.

The Canadian portion of the postseason was delayed while the Canucks and Flames finished out their regular seasons, but after Wednesday night’s Jets-Oilers opener, the final First Round series will finally get going.

Toronto is the heavy favorite, finishing in first in the North Division and not really coming close to falling out of that position all season. Montreal plays the role of the scrappy underdog who fired their coach mid-season then held on to earn a playoff berth in a weaker lower-half of the division.

“We control what we can control,” said Habs head coach Dominique Ducharme. “When you look at the Maple Leafs on paper, it’s an extremely talented group. On paper, it’s probably one of the best editions in team history. They have a lot of talent. It’s a challenge for us, but we like challenges.”

[NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs 2021 First Round schedule, TV info]

The Maple Leafs have 100% of the pressure, and arguably the most of any team in the playoffs. Their expectations are conflated by a dominant regular season, led by the league’s leading goal scorer, Auston Matthews, and just traditional Leafs hyperbole.

On the Montreal side, they have some good news with Brendan Gallagher expected to be back for the first time since April 5. The Habs had a stellar offseason and have been willing to adjust all season, letting go of Claude Julien, making moves, adding rookie Cole Caufield to the mix.

Both teams have no shortage of storylines, and this is an incredibly narrative-driven series for the Leafs to be such heavy favorites. Hey, maybe it’s the yeah they won’t have a first round exit.

[NBC 2021 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

TODAY’S NHL PLAYOFF SCHEDULE

Game 3: Panthers at Lightning (TB leads 2-0), 6:30 p.m. ET – CNBC (livestream)
Game 3: Penguins at Islanders (Series tied 1-1), 7 p.m. ET – NBCSN (livestream)
Game 1: Canadiens at Maple Leafs, 7:30 p.m. ET (NHL Network)
Game 3: Golden Knights at Wild (Series tied 1-1), 9:30 p.m. ET – NBCSN (livestream)

FRIDAY’S NHL PLAYOFF SCHEDULE

Game 4: Capitals at Bruins (BOS leads 2-1) 6:30 p.m. ET – NBCSN (livestream)
Game 3: Hurricanes at Predators (CAR leads 2-0) 7 p.m. ET – USA Network (livestream)
Game 2: Jets at Oilers (WPG leads 1-0) 9 p.m. ET – NBCSN (livestream)
Game 3: Avalanche at Blues (COL leads 2-0) 9:30 p.m. ET – UDSA Network (livestream)

PHT’s 2021 Stanley Cup previews
Penguins vs. Islanders

Bruins vs. Capitals
Jets vs. Oilers
• Maple Leafs vs. Canadiens
Lightning vs. Panthers
• Hurricanes vs. Predators
Golden Knights vs. Wild
Avalanche vs. Blues

• Stanley Cup playoff predictions
• Why your team can (and can not) win the Stanley Cup this season
• NHL odds: Division winners, 2021 Stanley Cup champion
 Which NHL playoff series has biggest upset potential?

Marisa Ingemi is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop her a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow her on Twitter @Marisa_Ingemi.

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