Leafs Postgame: Auston’s Better

Photo Credit: John E. Sokolowski/USA TODAY SPORTS

Here it was. Chapter one in the manufactured rivalry between Auston Matthews and Jack Eichel. Now granted, there’s a bit at stake; there’s a good chance that one of these players will end up being the greatest American player of all time. But one game won’t solve it… or will it?

Certainly, Matthews was the better-looking player tonight, as he helped push the Leafs to a 4-3 victory over the Buffalo Sabres.

The Rundown

Toronto actually didn’t get off to too hot of a start to this game. Morgan Rielly was injured early in the first period, and Frederik Andersen effectively gave the Sabres a handicap goal to start this game off when he misplayed the puck straight into Kyle Okposo’s lap, giving him an easy 1-0 goal. The situation didn’t get much better, after Evander Kane blasted a one-timer with 30 seconds to go in the period to add insurance before the second period had even started.

But, after many blown leads, it was time for the Leafs to claw back on one. It didn’t take them long. They started with Nazem Kadri feeding Leo Komarov just 30 seconds in:

They followed it up with Matt Martin scoring from an unexpected angle:

Then, just to make everyone feel good, a play that began with an Auston Matthews takeaway off Jack Eichel ended in the rookie phenom burying his 22nd of the season, putting him in the league lead for rookie goals and points once again.

With seven minutes to go in the third period, Zach Bogosian threw a reckless hit on Connor Brown that put Toronto in a powerplay position. That led to James van Riemsdyk doing… this.

Buffalo did manage to pick up one more goal, a nice bat-in by William Carrier off a saucer pass by Zemgus Girgensens, but they staved off a complete Buffalo comeback to get themselves to the 50 point mark on the year.

Blue Warrior

I’ve got to split this one between Toronto’s two leftie defencemen. Jake Gardiner and Matt Hunwick were given a very difficult task of making up for Morgan Rielly’s lost time tonight, and managed to control play out there despite logging huge ice time. Gardiner played 29:24 and Hunwick played 27:32, and both had shot attempt numbers in the 60%+ range. Hats off to them.

See You Next Time

At some point, this run is going to slow down, but you have to enjoy it while it’s happening, right? Toronto’s next game is against the Rangers on Thursday. Who will be the replacement defenceman? Will they even need one? Only one way to find out. Puck drop is at 7:30 PM.