Last night, the Toronto Maple Leafs kicked off the 2016-17 NHL season with a 5-4 overtime defeat to the Ottawa Senators. The Leafs’ first overall pick and wishful saviour Auston Matthews put on a show by scoring all four of Toronto’s goals. Aside from the Auston-mania that has surrounded last night’s game, how did a few of the other young Leafs fair in the Leafs first game of the season?
Aside From Auston Matthews, Leafs First Game Showcased Other Talent
William Nylander was extraordinary last night, playing on a line with Zach Hyman and none others than Auston Matthews himself. To say that Matthews carried the Leafs this game is not giving credit where it is due. Nylander picked up two assists on two of Matthews’ goals. His +/- for the game was also a solid +3, which tied him with Matthews for second on the team. Nylander was integral part of the Leafs last night. His speed and vision helped his line out at key moments, and not to mention his slick passing to set up plays like this:
Auston Matthews with his fourth goal of the night. And yes, this is real life. pic.twitter.com/uabGYCFcfe
— Jack (@JackHousenga) October 13, 2016
Much like Nylander, Hyman was a key piece in last night’s game, and an essential ingredient in yet another genius line assembled by Mike Babcock. Hyman picked up one assist but had a team-leading +4 on the ice. That assist was none other than a perfect soft pass from behind the net to Matthews for his first NHL goal. Hyman undoubtedly played hard and did his part by driving possessions and forcing turnovers. Expect more things from him as this line blooms more.
Mitch Marner made an interesting case for himself last night. He recorded no points and had a team-worst -2 for the night, but the stats don’t show everything. Marner was still dominant in his play, and looked amazing out on the ice. Coach Babcock praised Marner’s play in his post-game interview stating to Terry Korshan of the Toronto Sun, “I know Matthews scored all the goals, [but] I thought Marner in the first half of the game might have been the best player.”
— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) October 13, 2016
Marner’s efforts were undeniably evident on the ice. He was speedy, with quick hands, great puck-skills, and lots of confident shots on net. Marner looked like a pro out there with the puck, even getting many chances for his first goal, including one that went off the crossbar. With some more solid help from his linemates, Marner’s debut could have been much better than it already was.
Mitch Marner already switching zones like a pro pic.twitter.com/iUlrwkyfye
— Jeff Veillette (@JeffVeillette) October 12, 2016
Frederik Andersen made his regular season debut for the blue and white last night, and let’s be honest, he did not have a strong performance. Andersen let in 5 goals on 30 shots last night, for a .833 save percentage. Not the best performance a team would want from a hopeful number one goaltender, but the reality of it is that it is just one of those lackluster nights every goalie has. Andersen has shown that he is more than capable from his time spent playing for the Anaheim Ducks, and although Toronto’s new defensive core is not as strong as the Ducks’, he still has plenty of time to prove himself.
When asked about Andersen’s performance, coach Mike Babcock said to Kevin McGran of the Star, “the thing about goaltending is that sometimes they pick you up lots of nights and some nights you gotta pick them up. That might be the most comfortable position on our team as far if your me, so i’m not going to spend anytime worrying about that.”
Andersen has also just come off of an injury that prevented him from competing in the World Cup of Hockey for Team Europe last month. His status in net is surely expected to get better, and as Babcock says, “he missed quite a bit of hockey, and I don’t have any concerns about him.”
The Leafs effort last night was definitely dominated by their young stars anxious to make a statement on the ice. There was not much apparent help from the veterans, but that will surely come as the lines begin to develop more chemistry. Let me know in the comments what you thought about some player’s performances in last night’s game.