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Washington Capitals left wing Jakub Vrana, left, of the Czech Republic, battles for the puck with Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Deryk Engelland during first period in Game 1 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Finals Monday, May 28, 2018, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

NHL Season Opener Preview: Teams to Watch

The NHL season begins tonight with the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs at 7 p.m. The marquee matchup of the night is the defending Stanley Cup champions the Washington Capitals and the Boston Bruins, which starts at 7:30 p.m.

Toronto Maple Leafs:

NHL analyst Barry Melrose said Toronto “helped themselves the most,” with the key addition of Center Johnny Tavares. Tavares signed a 7-year, $77 million deal with the Leafs this past offseason. After his contract signing, Tavares made a post on Twitter in July that said, “not every day you can live a childhood dream.” After a 49-27-7 campaign in 2017-2018, Tavares can help the team make a deeper playoff run this year.

“Well, Toronto helped themselves the most,” Melrose said. “You’ve got Johnny Tavares, you’ve got one of the best players in the NHL and you didn’t have to give up anything for him. You got him from the Islanders for nothing.”

Montreal Canadiens:

In contrast to the Leafs, the Canadiens are among a group of teams in the NHL that look to improve by adding players through the draft. With a young core of Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Nick Suzuki and Noah Juulsen, the team hopes to carry on the success of their 4-3-0 preseason record. After missing the playoffs last season, Melrose said that the Canadiens are “adding young players and draft picks to make their team a little bit better.” Can all this young talent come together and make a playoff run?

Washington Capitals:

More noteworthy, the Capitals come into their season opener against the Boston Bruins fresh off a Stanley Cup Championship. Also, most of the team is back and can make another Stanley Cup run. However, the Capitals will have to go through a gauntlet in the NHL to find themselves back on top.

Melrose weighs in with his expectations on the Capitals:

The gauntlet of the NHL includes many teams. Melrose points out the Toronto Maple Leafs, Florida Panthers, Tampa Bay Lightning and Pittsburgh Penguins as teams Washington will have to go through.

“It’s gonna be a tough road for anybody to win the Stanley Cup, especially to repeat,” Melrose said.

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