We’ll share points after every game throughout the Toronto Maple Leafs season.
Auston Matthews remains an absolute opening night wrecking ball, scoring twice in a 5-3 victory over the Ottawa Senators as the Toronto Maple Leafs raised the curtain on the 2019-20 season. All three Leafs rookies had points in the win, with Ilya Mikheyev scoring his first NHL goal, and Rasmus Sandin and Dymtro Timashov notching assists.
Here are four points from the W:
First Point: Matthews does Sabourin one better
If Matthews helped Scott Sabourin make the Ottawa Senators’ opening night roster by helping cement his role as a potential foil, then he helped set the stage for a moment the 27-year-old journeyman forward probably started to believe would never be possible.
But after indeed making the team and helping the Senators win an offensive zone possession in the second period, Sabourin flew through the air Bobby Orr style, celebrating a legitimately beautiful goal scored at the highest level.
It’s one to tell literally every Sabourin about.
Replay of Sabourin's 1st NHL GOAL from Chlapik and Pageau pic.twitter.com/48TKqiGd5I— OSNL (@OSNL11) October 3, 2019
A lifetime achievement award, of sorts, tied the game for the Senators, and only moments later they appeared to re-take the lead with a moment almost as improbable as Sabourin’s marker. But after Ron Hainsey beat Frederik Andersen clean with a wrist shot off a Maple Leafs turnover, coach Mike Babcock issued a challenge and had the goal taken off the board.
This set the table for Matthews to respond to the player he so humbled with an exhibition name check.
We might have had one come off the board from Ron Hainsey, but at least I can write that Scott Sabourin and Auston Matthews traded goals tonight.— Justin Cuthbert (@jccuthbert) October 3, 2019
But it wasn’t just the one goal scored 30 seconds after Hainsey’s disallowed marker. For the rest of the second period and beyond, it was the Auston Matthews opening night experience.
Two goals scored less than seven minutes apart in the second period on absolutely incredible feeds from William Nylander and Mitch Marner, Matthews put away the Senators on opening night all over again.
The one from Marner is worth watching again.
No look pass by Marner to Matthews👀🏒🚨 pic.twitter.com/IoM3HYhH4j— Sean Tierney (@ChartingHockey) October 3, 2019
Matthews now has goals in all four curtain-raisers he’s played in his career, and 12 goals and 19 points in 17 outings versus the Senators.
Second Point: ‘John’s our guy.’
While many fans and media members took issue with the Maple Leafs’ decision to let the captaincy debate dominate the discourse leading up to puck drop Wednesday, there’s nothing to contend with when it comes to how they delivered the news to John Tavares himself.
Recruiting his wife and dressing his three-week-old son, Jace, in a Tavares sweater with the letter stitched to the shoulder, Maple Leafs brass provided the 25th captain in franchise history with a moment he will never forget.
As speculation shifted in the lead-up to the announcement, plenty of opinions were shared over the last few weeks. You won’t, however, hear an argument from one of his teammates, and certainly not from his head coach.
“He is the kind of man, and he’s the kind of leader, and he’s the kind of person that our guys look up to,” Babcock said. “He does everything right every day. He’s all about winning. He’s not about John. He’s about winning. He’s a great example to all of us. When I ask him a question, he doesn’t say, ‘Is this good for John?’”
The same sentiments were shared before Babcock spoke in the Leafs room.
“Johnny is the perfect guy for the job,” said Morgan Rielly, who will wear an assistant letter on a permanent basis. “He’s poised, confident. He carries himself like a true professional every day.”
He added: “John’s our guy.”
Third Point: Sandin waits to do his thing
For a little while into a “borderline dysfunctional” opening period for the Leafs, the player who made maybe the most waves in training camp sat on the bench. Three power-play opportunities for the Maple Leafs in the first 10 minutes of the game meant Rasmus Sandin was forced to wait 11 minutes before officially logging NHL ice time in his debut Wednesday night.
A few moments to soak in his surroundings might have turned out to be a good thing for the 19-year-old, who said he had to check himself a few times to realize he was actually debuting in an NHL game.
“Some moments in the game,” Sandin said, “(I was wondering) if I was even awake.”
It was a see-it-to-believe-it scenario for Sandin as well when witnessing one of those game-changing moments from Matthews.
“Mitch’s pass to Auston. He just rips that one top cheese there. It’s pretty cool, yeah,” Sandin said.
When he was on the ice, Sandin remained productive. He finished with a team-best 72 per cent possession mark in a limited nine-minute debut, registered two shots, and had his first career point on Trevor Moore’s goal.
Fourth Point: Barrie an obvious upgrade
On opening night, there were holes poked in the argument that Tyson Barrie provides only positional optimization when compared to Jake Gardiner.
By twice travelling along the boards and below the hashmarks, Barrie’s aggressive offensive instincts set the table for two goals — one of which was highlighted by a beautiful spin move.
He also had the Senators’ training staff prepping ice packs for each of Filip Chlapik’s ankles after this nasty deke inside his own end.
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