The Leafs christened the NHL season with an eventually dominant win over the lowly Ottawa Senators. Here are five things we learned from the opening game of the season.
John Tavares is our Captain
Speculation was high and varied regarding the 25th captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs, but all signs pointed to John Tavares to wear the C by puck drop to start the season. The Leafs did name three alternate captains, Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, and Morgan Rielly, to support him which is a positive as well. He has the media training, he has the experience, and he’s a well respected winning player. No arguments from the majority of the fans or the players on this one.
The Leafs will outscore their problems again
Problems? What problems? Well, the high-risk, run-and-gun style offense the Leafs play will undoubtedly get them into some defensive troubles and we saw that against the Sens last night. Broken defensive zone play and poor coverage on extended D-zone time meant the Leafs were exposed in certain areas. The resolution to this, outside of drilling the defensemen in practice, is scoring five goals. The Leafs are going to do this a lot and it’s going to cover up a lot of inadequacies on the back end.
Leafs rookies impress in opening games
Three rookies started for the Leafs and all three popped up on the scoresheet with Ilya Mikheyev racking up a goal and an assist, Sandin grabbing an assist, and Timashov also getting an apple. All three looked good, with Mikheyev stealing the show out of the crop with his finish on a ridiculous Tyson Barrie feed. Timashov was shaky but made the most out of his eight minutes, and Sandin was the better of his bottom pairing unit.
Marner was doing Marner things
No one seemed to think “10.493 million is an overpay” when Mitch Marner recovered the draw, ripped a spin-o-rama no-look pass to Matthews for the top corner slapshot snipe, did they? Marner got the most money out of the summer RFAs and it’s pretty clear that if he pulls the exciting plays like he did last night no one is really going to care that he didn’t take a cheap bridge or give a hometown discount to the Leafs.
Auston Matthew – Captain of Attack
I really, really wanted the Leafs to name Matthew the captain after leaking misinformation to the media about John Tavares. It would have been perfect because Brian Burke would have looked like more of an idiot than he usually does, and it feeds the hungry Matthews to take his game to another level. He wore the A last night, but his record-setting season-opening scoring stole the show. Two goals netted made it four consecutive seasons with Matthews scoring in the opener totaling nine goals over that period. He may be an alternate, but he’s the captain of the Leafs attack.