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Spotlight Game: Rangers vs. Maple Leafs to Decide Season Series

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Rangers and Maple Leafs at The Garden.

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New York Rangers v Toronto Maple Leafs Photo by Kevin Sousa/NHLI via Getty Images

The New York Rangers will face off with the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden, and it will be for the third and final meeting between the teams this season.

What Has Already Happened This Season?

The Rangers and Leafs squared off twice in an eight-day span back in December, with each teams earning a win. The first game at Madison Square Garden saw the Rangers fall 6-3 with Alexandar Georgiev in goal.

He faced 40 shots, and stopped 34. Pavel Buchnevich led the Blueshirts with a goal and an assist, with Brady Skjei, Ryan Strome, Tony DeAngelo, Chris Kreider, Artemiy Panarin, Marc Staal and Mika Zibanejad all registering one point.

On the Leafs side, William Nylander led the way with three points, while Mitch Marner, Auston Matthews, and Ilya Mikheyev each registered two points of their own. Frederik Andersen was between the pipes, and stopped 19 of 22 shots.

The two sides met again in Toronto just after Christmas, and were involved in a wild game that required overtime.

This time New York was victorious, as Tony DeAngelo scored an overtime winner to button up a 5-4 victory.

During this game Ryan Strome tallied four points, Panarin had three of his own, while DeAngelo, Fast, Howden, Kreider, Trouba, and Zibanejad also picked up a point.

Georgiev stood tall in net making 44 saves on 48 shots, and improved his career save percentage vs. Toronto to .929.

Toronto once again got big performances out of their top players, with Matthews leading the way with three points, and Nylander picking up two points. Andersen faced a considerable increase in action this time, and stopped 33 of 38 shots that came his way.

Implications of This Game

Both teams will play Monday, so these stats will change.

The Rangers have a record of 25-21-4 with 54 points, and both wild card teams, the Blue Jackets and Flyers, have 63 points.

The Maple Leafs have a record of 28-17-7 with 63 points, and sit six points out of second place in the Atlantic Division, The Florida Panthers have a record of 28-17-5 with 61 points, and are creeping up on the Leafs to take third place in the division.

Both teams really need a win, with the stakes being equally high. The Rangers are in a position in which every game in which they fail to gain ground results in their long shot odds of making the playoffs becoming even steeper.

The Leafs are in a position in which they have the buffer of being able to shift between third place of the division and two Wild Card spots, but a surplus of strong Metro Division teams like the Blue Jackets, Flyers, and Carolina Hurricanes certainly makes things interesting. It also is worth mentioning that if every team in the league held position the rest of the way, Toronto would face off against Tampa in the first round. Given Toronto’s history versus Boston in the first round, this could be a favorable alternative.

Storyline of Note

Alexandar Georgiev’s Future

Rumors have been running rampant regarding Georgiev’s future, and one team that’s been heavily linked to him is the Toronto Maple Leafs. Part of this is because Toronto hasn’t had great success this year with backups, as indicated by Andersen’s 41 appearances this year, and the fact next year is the last year of his current contract.

Andersen will be 31 at the start of the 2020-21 season, and the team will need to think long and hard about how they want to proceed with a goalie who would be 32 in the first year of a new deal if they extended him. Georgiev turns 24 on February 10, so it’s possible that if acquired he could eventually take over the starting job for Toronto down the line.

But if that is to happen, the Rangers will have to actually trade Georgiev, and that’s not a certain thing.

The team doesn’t have to make a decision on Georgiev now, but it would be interesting if he were to start this game against Toronto and turn in another performance strong enough to get general manager Kyle Dubas’ attention.