Three Takeaways From The Leafs' Season Opener
1. Auston Matthews is good. Really good.
The number one overall pick in this past summer's draft certainly did not disappoint in his NHL debut. Matthews broke the NHL record for most goals scored in an NHL debut with 4, and scored on his first three shots of the game. He looked fast, strong, and competed hard all night. He also takes responsibility for the missed assignment that led to Turris's overtime winner, but that was one mistake out of a great game. Auston looked comfortable with Nylander and Hyman, which only bodes well for the future of the Leafs. He won't be able to keep this up, certainly not at this rate, but we're in for a very exciting season if we see a few more games like this.
2. Marner Shows He Belongs
Marner played very well in his debut. He used speed to create space for himself and had a bevy of scoring chances where it will only be a matter of time before he routinely capitalizes. He displayed great playmaking ability and hustle, and didn't look out of place at all. Playing on the top line with James van Riemsdyk and Tyler Bozak, he definitely played up to that caliber. I thought he was the standout player of the game until Matthews exploded. Marner was also able to showcase a solid back check and displayed good patience in breaking out of the zone, and didn't seem to rush too many chances and make mistakes in that sense.
3. Defence and Goaltending Again The Issue
I'll be honest, the defence was NOT horrible. I thought for the first game and losing Matt Hunwick to injury early, it was fairly solid. The defence broke out of the zone pretty well for the most part, but I noticed a few times where they got hemmed into their own zone and were forced into mistakes by the pesky Sens offence. I didn't see many forwards or defenceman really committing to giving up the body to block a shot, which is what led to the first goal. There's room to grow, but overall a positive impression from a young and fairly inexperienced defence corps. Hunwick's injury could also be the chance that Frank Corrado needs to break into the roster.
Frederik Andersen also did not play badly. He made some great saves at key moments, and there were a couple goals (JVR deflection) that he couldn't do anything about. He controlled rebounds well and kicked the puck to the side quickly and effectively. But again, allowing 5 goals isn't good. If a couple saves are made here or there, it's a completely different game. Every time the Leafs had momentum it was given back by a quick Sens goal. He can and will be better, especially once the system is really ingrained into this inexperienced lineup.