Chicago is trying to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2016, while Toronto is looking to end the longest championship drought in the NHL. The Leafs are where they’re expected to be in second place in the Atlantic Division behind the reigning Eastern Conference champion Bruins. The Blackhawks, meanwhile, aren’t close to a playoff spot as they are seven points back 15 games into the season.
Despite the contrast in how the teams are performing, Sunday’s game at the United Center will be a must-watch for two main reasons.
1. Last season’s Chicago home opener
Toronto visited the Blackhawks last season for Chicago’s home opener in a wild 7-6 overtime victory for the Leafs.
John Tavares had his first hat trick with Toronto. Patrick Kane scored twice in 55 seconds late in the third period to send the game to overtime. He tied it 5-5 at 18:36 before Auston Matthews put the Leafs back in front 22 seconds later, but Kane made it 6-6 with 29 seconds remaining in the third. The back-and-forth scoring resulted in dueling one-upmanship celebrations from Kane and Matthews.
The game, however, had an abrupt ending with Morgan Rielly scoring 19 seconds into overtime.
2. Nylander brothers
Alex Nylander and his older brother, William Nylander, will face off for the third time in their NHL careers. William has an assist in each of the two previous matchups against Alex, who had a goal for Buffalo last March against Toronto.
Both players were selected eighth overall in their respective draft years, and William has already developed into a 20-goal scorer in the NHL. Alex, who was traded to Chicago in the offseason, is off to a good start this season with seven points (two goals, five assists) in 14 games prior to Saturday’s outing in Pittsburgh. William has 11 points (four goals, seven assists) in 17 games.
The game being in Chicago adds a special touch for the Nylander brothers who grew up in the city while their father, Michael Nylander, played for the Blackhawks from 1999-2002.
The Blackhawks and Leafs are scheduled to drop the puck at 6 p.m. Sunday. To purchase game tickets, visit StubHub.
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