1. Auston Matthews: With a booming shot to tie the game up 1-1, Matthews made a compelling argument that he probably deserved more reps on the Maple Leafs’ power play unit all along. In overtime, Matthews took a great feed from Patrick Marleau and scored the overtime game-winner.
Matthews certainly wants to be more than this, but if an Austin Powers nickname doesn’t work (Ron Howard: “It doesn’t), then “Mr. Opening Night” could at least be a good placeholder for the American forward.
With a contract year providing that extra bit of human nature motivation, and hopefully a clean bill of health this season, Matthews could put together a truly massive 2018-19 season.
He’s already shown that he has a knack for making great first impression, as tonight’s two-goal performance inspires inevitable comparison to Matthews making NHL history with four goals in his first game. Sure, he scored half as many goals, yet the Maple Leafs won this time around.
Also, if you’re into this sort of thing: Matthews: 2, John Tavares: 1.
2. John Gibson: Opening night featured quite a few similar performances for goalies. You could make a legitimate argument for any one of Frederik Andersen and Jacob Markstrom enjoyed very similar nights, propping up their teams during moments of duress.
Gibson justified his status as something of a critical darling with a night like this, largely stealing this game against a loaded Sharks team. He stopped 31 out of 33 shots, and both of San Jose’s goals were brilliant. It seemed like they needed to be.
Via Natural Stat Trick, the Sharks generated a 14-2 advantage in “high-danger” chances, but it didn’t matter. Gibson was that good.
3. Evgeny Kuznetsov: Much like with Gibson (and Matthews), you could quibble with Kuznetsov’s placement in the top three tonight. After all, many players generated two points, and some hit three (including Rickard Rakell, Kuznetsov’s teammate Nicklas Backstrom, and Jakob Silfverberg).
Kuznetsov didn’t just stand out for scoring two goals (including a 2-0 tally that really started to dig the hole for Boston). The Russian center was a consistent nuisance for the Bruins, nearly netting a hat trick while firing five shots on goal.
As much as people wonder about Washington’s chances to repeat, consider that Kuznetsov generated 83 points last season, and might just be able to do that, well, back-to-back.
Highlight of the Night: Goodness gracious, Tomas Hertl scored a ridiculous shorthanded goal for the San Jose Sharks. It wasn’t enough to earn the Sharks a win or even a “charity point,” but it dropped jaws all the same.
If Auston Matthews is “Mr. Opening Night,” then Martin Jones is … well, not. Or at least Jones isn’t “Mr. Opening Minutes.”
It seems like the Canucks might be the Auston Matthews of NHL teams … at least when it comes to opening night. Elias Pettersson made quite the rookie first impression in his own right, collecting a goal and an assist.
Chin up, Bruins fans; at least it’s been a long time since Boston’s endured such a rough opening night of NHL action.
Maple Leafs 3, Canadiens 2 (OT)
Capitals 7, Bruins 0
Canucks 5, Flames 2
Ducks 5, Sharks 2