Leafs Postgame: Auston Arrives, End of Dark Ages TBD

Photo Credit: Marc Desrosiers/USA TODAY SPORTS

The Toronto Maple Leafs opened up their season against the Ottawa Senators tonight. Most importantly, Auston Matthews (and a few others) opened up their NHL careers.  Matthews, of course, was the star, having what is already being considered among the most explosive first games in league history.

Amazingly, the Leafs still found a way to let that happen, dominate the flow of play, and still lose.


The Rundown

The Leafs took the lead just eight minutes into this game, and who else was going to get the goal? Matthews made the most of a play initiated by William Nylander to get his first NHL tally on his first shot, and just as importantly, gave the Leafs the lead. It wasn’t one last lasted long, however. Bobby Ryan responded two minutes later, and Erik Karlsson fired an absolute rocket that bounced off of James van Riemsdyk and above Frederik Andersen to reverse the order.

Matthews quickly tied the game up with his second of the night, an individual effort that saw him beat the bulk of the Sens roster singlehandedly. He capped off a hat trick two minutes into the second, only to have Derrick Brassard pull the lead away from them with his first of the season.

With three seconds to go in the second period…

Unbelievable. Matthews became the first player in NHL history to score four goals in his debut. Unfortunately, the hockey gods aren’t fair to destiny. Kyle Turris tied the game up with thirteen minutes remaining in overtime, and while the Leafs were able to force overtime, the centre, who was once the hope of Matthews’ childhood Coyotes, grabbed a second goal in the first minute of overtime to send the Leafs home without the win.

Why The Leafs Lost


Toronto, for the most part, dominated the possession game on this one, out attempting the Senators 68-36 at even strength. With this in mind, people will probably be quick to judge Frederik Andersen’s efforts, and it would be hard to blame them doing so. Toronto’s new starting goalie looked to be slow on his reflexes at times and struggled to control rebounds, to the point where you wonder if his pre-season injury is still bugging him.

As well, I’m not sure that I was a huge fan of the Marincin-Rielly pairing tonight. Marincin, in particular, was eaten alive by Ottawa’s speedier wingers, and having either of them playing their off-side just seems like a bad idea. Matt Hunwick’s disappearance didn’t help matters either, he took a rough hit early in the first period, and it wouldn’t be shocking to hear that he’s suffering from concussion-like symptoms when all is said and done.

Blue Warrior

Did you really have to ask? What a night. This is a game we’re going to be talking about where we were to see it for the next fifty years if all goes to plan. I was at my desk, making these GIFs.

See You Next Time

Toronto will now return for their home opener on Saturday night, against the Boston Bruins. Puck drop is at 7:00 at the Air Canada Centre, in what should be a jam-packed day for Toronto hockey. 

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  • Jmo

    Observations – Looks like Gardiner was on for all 4 goals (ex overtime). Morgan was on for zero (again ex overtime). Marincin for 2 (he looked slow at times) and zaitsev for 1. Zaitsev’s shifts look long and the goal he was on for was an extended shift (mike will fix that). Let’s be real about the goals… the first was an Andersen juggle and the second bounced of JVR’s stick and went top shelf. This should have been a win. Let’s evaluate after 10 games.

  • Jmo

    Apologies. The conversation about defensemen above related to goals against and comes from trying to eyeball the shift chart on hockeystats so correct me if I’m wrong….

  • LukeDaDrifter

    Hey! We come out of there with a point. Toronto blocked 9 shots. Ottawa blocked 25. Frig-off with the “We really won the game because we dominated the possession game BS” It has been 12 hours since to game ended and I am still too pissed-off on how the game ended to comment objectively.

    • Kanuunankuula

      It’s not “We really won the game”, it’s “we dominated most of the game and got unlucky”. Most nights if play like this, you’re going to win with average goaltending. Blocking shots mean you don’t have the puck, so it’s reasonable for Tor to have less. Blocking shots is a not a metric I’d strive to be good at. It’s a nice talent to have, but not as a team stat.

      I’d rather the leafs be on the green side of that chart and get unlucky than to be where the Senators are in that (and a couple of years and a coach ago we were too).

      • HockeyKeeperKit

        Agreed. 25 blocked shots is great if there were only 30 shot attempts at the Ottawa’s net. Same with 9 being bad if 30 were taken at Toronto’s. The problem is that Toronto had considerably more shot attempts than Ottawa. Maybe not nearly 3 times as much (9×3 = 27 which is comparable to Ottawa’s 25) but you also have to consider the successful poke-checks, turnovers, and pass interceptions to really gauge a team’s overall defense. If Andersen could have stop one of those bad goals, the game would have easily been the Leaf’s.

        • LukeDaDrifter

          Same thing if the defence could have blocked one of those shots.Nobody was in the shooting lanes. When a team scores 5 goals when they have possession for only 36% of the time, something is missing.

    • DukesRocks

      I agree with Babs on this one… for the most part the Leafs were the better team with the majority of chances. If Andersen played better we might’ve won. I see your point thought, its like we threw away that game but on the bright side, I wasn’t even expecting to get a point in Ottawa. The young gun showed me something… they can compete at this level and win. But for me, the biggest thing i witnessed was a Kid that reminded me of a 16 year old at the 78 World Jr. The first time the world got introduced to Wayne Gretzky. That was inspiring seeing Mathews in that game and the only words I could muster on that second goal on-wards was “Holy Shit”.

  • vermie22

    I know most who frequent this blog site aren’t going to agree, but the Sens won that game with Neil’s hit on Hunwick. The never mentioned but most obvious impact of a guy that brings the physical element of the game. That hit messed up the Leafs’ D pairings and ice-time for the rest of the game, giving the Sens the advantage they needed.

    • Jaker

      I don’t think you can point to one thing like that. The Leafs also had 4 power plays they didn’t convert on – the powerplay needs to be better; and several instances of just blown coverage and bad bounces. It’s hockey, could have easily went the other way in a game that sloppy.

      • DukesRocks

        Not to mention Marner seemed snake bitten. When that kid gets rolling look out. But there is a point we should note. Nobody defended Hunwick on that hit, clean or not. This worries me because even though the Leafs played a fast game, in some cases when the game got chippy and physical, they were out muscled. I was impressed with Clune during the preseason games and Rychel and Greening can hold their own. Just saying this might be a problem moving forward.

        • The China Wall

          I noticed that too and it bothered me as well.

          I don’t agree with today’s NHL where even clean hits have to be defended with a fight, after all it is hockey, but I think the hit on Hunwick was borderline and should have elicited a response from another Leaf player on the ice.

          • DukesRocks

            This is true but Martin can’t be on the ice all the time. Beside Martin there isn’t one Leaf that can or will drop the mitts. This is why I feel guys like Rychel, Greening and Clune are needed.

          • Kanuunankuula

            No, this what was advertised when he signed. His toughness was supposed to scare people into not doing shit like this. Yet Hunwick probably has a concussion now. Also how does stop Neil from doing it if Martin fights Borowicki?

            Or maybe we could just accept fighting doesn’t stop anything, and at best is retaliatory, at which point the damage is already done. (Also the rats just skate away and you get a roughing penalty, look at Marchand)

          • DukesRocks

            I don’t know what to tell you. I look at the Leafs lineup and and try to find somebody that walks the line of skill and physicality. JVR could but I’ve never seen him drop the mitts. Hyman I think will drop the mitts if needed to defend his linemates (Mathews/Nylander) but he is also green under the ears. I think Mathews might be able to hold is own in the future but it would be asking too much now. Kadri did a great job of this last year but do we really want Kadri being that guy to drop the mitts. What I saying when it comes to balance (skill and physicality), the Leafs lean heavy on skill. Martin will be a deterrent in some measure but in my opinion it’s not enough. My point is the Leafs don’t need to sacrifice skill with Greening and Rychel. Both can keep up with a skilled fast game and still lend a hand to keep the flies of the skilled players.

          • LukeDaDrifter

            As I stated above. Only certain fans here have said Martin was brought in as someone to protect the young guys. Babcock has never used so called enforcers. Martin has brought in as someone who knows how to forecheck who also can skate and backcheck.. Given the opportunity he will stand right on the edge of the crease, screening the goalie. It should of been blatantly obvious Martin’s skills are not the type desired to play with Marner, Matthews, Nylander on a regular basis. Babcock has never encouraged any of his players to initiate fights. He sees little or no value in it. We didn’t see a lot of Rychel after he got thrown of the the game for retaliating when Kadri got caught with a clean check. The scrape Martin got into with the Ottawa defenceman was after Martin had given him a solid body check behind the Ottawa net. The Senator’s player was unhappy and challenged him to fight. At that point Martin took up the challenge. Still it was not his best option. Had he laughed skated away the Ottawa defenceman was most like to slash or trip him drawing a penalty. I am sure Babcock will point out the better options for him and the team. Babcock’s coaching is likely the reason no one went after Neil when he took out Hunwick. A deliberate attempt to injure may have been a different kettle of fish.

            Kanuunankuula is right. Martin will not deter some dirty players from injuring our young stars. Some guys will take the risk of suspension to knock them out of the NHL for a month or two. Only the NHL can stop that from happening by making the suspensions more severe. Look at that arseho!e Shaw last night. He gets a match penalty at the 20 minute mark of the third period for slew-footing a guy as the final buzzer went. If Montreal thinks that type of play wins games for them they are in for a rude surprise. Another thing about Montreal’s coaching. They think it is smart to allow Brendan Gallagher to constantly end up on top of goalies. “What’s good for the goose is good for the gander” Other teams will in turn start running Price. Didn’t they learn anything from last year.

          • LukeDaDrifter

            Martin plays the same sort of style as Neil. He throws a lot of body checks on the fore-check. Only some of the fans here think Martin was brought in as an enforcer. Babcock has never used enforcers. He does like some players to make hard clean checks.

    • Jeff Veillette

      Even if that were the case, questionable boarding plays that probably lead to concussions likely aren’t the thing to point to when advocating for toughness changing momentum

      • DukesRocks

        Jeff, just wondering in hockey other then possession is there a stat for steals? Mathews stole the puck like 4 to 5 times last night to gain scoring chances and change direction of play.

        • Jeff Veillette

          There is, its tracked by the same people and it’s called takeaways, and you can find it even in NHL.com‘s stats.

          They’re kinda subjective, though: you saw 4-5 of them, on paper he had two. My usage of them on a scale beyond a single game is usually to add them and giveaways together to have an idea of how often a player is carrying the puck.

  • LukeWarmWater

    Brother Luke DaDrifter and I have been drifting for 50 years in the desert, waiting , waiting for a new leader to take us across the river to the promise land. Why we are older than Moses and it is now time to hand the hockey stick to a new protege, a young lad who practiced stick handling around Gila monsters and diamond back rattlers and we saw him cross the Colorado river canyon and travel to Switzerland where he became a man and now BABY HE IS OURSSSS ALL OURRSSSSSS.

    Yesiree Sir Auston Matthews is going to lead us across the rive to the promised land to the Stanley Cup. With Marner and Nylander and 10 other disciples getting ready to bring that old Stanley Cup back to the center of the universe. That beautiful old mug that I as a teenager got to watch my beloved leafs win 4 stanley cups in my high school years. Happy times our indeed here again. Oh there will be trials and tribulations as we saw from the defence last night and Anderson doing his imitation of previous leaf sieve goalies. But the pillars of the temple are being put into place led by number 34. Brother Luke DaDrifter can I get an AMEN from you.

  • ChelmsfordLeafs

    Watched this from UK and was very impressed with the 3 kids but have to raise 2 points. 1) Kadri and JVR seemed a little in awe of the kids. 2). The PP was rubbish. Can’t go through the season failing to convert 4 chances.
    Defence still suspect but a little more luck / composure from Marner and this would have been a win. Or should we blame the Defence / Net minding for the lost point.

    • LukeDaDrifter

      Defensively speaking the defence wasn’t sharp in thier own end. Losing one of our defencemen early, forced the coach to scramble his pairings. Having six rookies in an NHL lineup, is risky for the defensive side of the game. Those rookies will improve their defensive game with more NHL experience. Plus, Ottawa is a better offensive team than most folks give them credit for.

      • HockeyKeeperKit

        Haha, had time to cool down since your last post to discuss the game objectively now? I agree with you though. The defense was bad but it typically is bad for all teams at the start of the season before they have a chance to put their gameplan to the ice. The rare exceptions are goalies in mid-season form or teams that have d-cores/pairing that have been together for years. This team has neither of those two things currently. Defense will improve. Andersen will have to get healthy. The powerplay and secondary scoring will be scary once they get accustomed to the NHL. I’m fine with still losing this year as long as there is a consistent level of progression in experience and skills. If they are to succeed this year, I just think the defense and goaltending will just have to approach average as their scoring and possession numbers should win them games alone most nights.

        • LukeDaDrifter

          I will add that I thought Andersen played an ok game considering we allowed Ottawa lots of great scoring chances, whenever they did have the puck. I liked his glove hand that saved a couple of sure goals. Judging how Babcock coached last year, like you I am expecting to see the defence tighten up after about 5 to10 games. No way should Ottawa come out of that game with the two points..

        • LukeDaDrifter

          Ya I have definately calmed down. I wasn’t simply pissed-off that we lost the game. I didn’t think Auston Matthews, after the performance he gave on his first NHL game, deserved to be on the losing side.