…..and why wouldn’t they be??
Unbelievable. Incredible. Sensational. Jaw dropping. Insert any word or phrase here and it will justified because what Auston Matthews and Connor McDavid did on Wednesday night sent word around the league that “this” is their NHL, that these two are the present and the future of the league wrapped up in 2 separate bodies.
Before I get into Matthews because that’s what everyone is talking about, let me get into Connor McDavid and what he did on opening night. Now, there is a lot of pressure on this 19 year old, hoping to avoid injury and complete a full season in the league. Not only is he already one of the best players in the game, he is also the youngest captain in NHL history and is leading a franchise whose fans base is starving for success (insert Matthews and Toronto comparison here.) So, there he was last night, leading the Oilers against the Calgary Flames, and with his team tied in the 2nd period he took control. The speed, the hands and the talent were on full display, and with the game in Edmonton’s favor, he was awarded a penalty shot. Everyone stopped, (I can imagine the other games going on at the time stopped as well!) held their breath and watched. You know the entire Flames bench was looking, not just because they had too, but because this was a special moment. McDavid went in, one on one on Brian Elliot and the moves he made weren’t human. No one should be able to do that. No one. But McDavid can and McDavid did. Edmonton wouldn’t look back after that as they would go on to douse the Flames 7-4.
You know, when number 97 wants to take over a game at any level he can do it at any given moment. That is a sign of a superstar. He plays a step ahead of everyone else and that was on display Wednesday night. For fans inside the brand new Rogers Place, you are going to be thrilled every night you go and watch a game. And for those that can’t make it too Edmonton or any of the other cities the Oilers will play in this season, then grab the remote, rewind, and prepare to be amazed…because that is what Connor McDavid does.
Now, not taking anything away from his performance against Calgary, but there was another that did a little more on the first night of the NHL season, and did it on a stage where the lights were solely focused on him for the opening act. His name…Auston Matthews.
Let me re-set the scene in Ottawa where the Senators hosted the Toronto Maple Leafs. By the way, Ottawa won in overtime but is anyone talking about that? Not really. Here were two clubs that over the years have had some tremendous battles, hence the “Battle of Ontario,” but is hasn’t been the same for a while. It hasn’t had something. It hasn’t had someone, until now. There he was. The top pick from the 2016 NHL Draft, Auston Matthews, taking it all in for his first NHL game of his career. He looked calm. He looked poised. He looked like he was warming up for just another game. But this wasn’t “just” another game. It was an all-eyes on debut that not only the fans inside the Canadian Tire Centre were witnessing, but the entire league, whether it be by television, iPad, iPhone, or some other device that keeps the world connected.
I don’t think anyone expected him not to play well, but no one expected him to do what he did. He dazzled. He awed and yes, in just one game, Matthews said, “Here I am NHL, now watch me go.” He scored 4 goals on 6 shots and could have had at least one more. He played 17:27 over 25 shifts and looked like he had been in the league for at least 5 years. His vision was clear. His skill set was on full display. He was tough. He was quick. He was a force. It truly was incredible to watch.
How does this performance rank? Well, to put it simply- no one has done this before. There have been those to have scored 4 goals in a game on opening night, but not as rookies. When Wayne Gretzky made his debut in 1979, he had one assist. Mario Lemieux picked up 2 points in his first game in 1984. Sydney Crosby had an assist in 2005 while Alex Ovechkin scored twice in his first game, also in 2005. But no player, EVER, has scored 4….until last night. Now, is this going to continue? No. But imagine if it did??? After just one game, Matthews is on pace to score 50 goals in 13 games! (It’s OK Wayne….your record is not in jeopardy) I mean, it was and is amazing!
There have been some iconic moments over the course of time in NHL history, ones that we will never forget and quite frankly too many to fit into this piece. You can add another to that list, and it’s called “The Debut of Auston Matthews-Wednesday October 12th, 2016.”
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