Photo Credit: John E. Sokolowski/USA TODAY SPORTS
It took a few games, but he’s arrived. William Nylander took over the ice tonight at the Air Canada Centre, and left with three points and a mark left on the entire crowd’s personal hype train. Oh, and the Leafs themselves picked up a 5-2 win in the process.
The Leafs opened the scoring in this one thanks to a hilariously bad misplay of the puck by Jonas Hiller. With little time to spare and a need to make a decision, Hiller bounced a pass off of the boards in the trapezoid, which sent the puck straight to Nylander. Moments later, PA Parenteau set himself up in the slot, pulled in the feed, and snapped home an easy one-timer.
That was good enough to hold the lead for a bit, and after a ridiculous scenario which involved Nazem Kadri getting attacked for a clean hit on Johnny Gaudreau, the Leafs headed to the powerplay. It didn’t go as planned though, as Matt Stajan, who was a key part of the Leafs’ rebuild when Nylander was six years old, tied the game up with a short handed wrister. Four minutes later, Nylander tried to fire a one timer off of an offensive zone draw. While he didn’t get all of his stick on it, Zach Hyman was able to direct it past Hiller to regain the lead.
Joe Colborne continued the trend of former Leafs acting as double agents with another equalizer a few minutes later, but the 19-year-old wasn’t having his birth city spoil his lights out night. Just 25 seconds into the third period, Jake Gardiner set him up for a one-timer that was much, much harder than the one that led to the Hyman goal and unleashed what ended up being the game winner.
The game settled down from there, and Colin Greening and Josh Leivo both potted empty-netters in the final minute and a half of the game. The latter, which required a little bit harder of an effort, gave Connor Brown his first career point.
— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) March 22, 2016
Come on. You knew it had to be him. Games like tonight are why the youngster is hyped up as Toronto’s best prospect and one of the best up-and-comers in the game. He fired the puck as if it was lava on his stick, hit the net with four opportunities, led his more experienced teammates through some spectacularly creative plays, was good at the dot, and was the team’s second-best possession player with a 68% CF. If this is what this team is going to get for years to come, strap yourselves in for a wild ride.
See You Next Time
The Leafs will stay at home and wait to take on the Anaheim Ducks, who they face on Thursday night at the Air Canada Centre. The Ducks roster, of course, features Nick Ritchie, who Don Cherry famously insisted would have been a much better pick than Nylander. Nylander had more points tonight than Ritchie has in his 28-game career to date.
Puck drop will be at 7:30. See you then!