Photo Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Zach Hyman’s goal last night was classic Zach Hyman

You couldn’t necessarily say the same thing about every Leaf, but Zach Hyman showed up to play last night. Scoring the Leafs’ only goal late in the first period, his 1-1 marker gave the Leafs a shining. Of course, they’d concede the game’s next four goals, leaving Game 1 of the first round with a lopsided loss that left a sour taste in everyone’s mouth.

But let’s take a look at the goal and examine the effort that put the Leafs on the board for the only time last night.

The play starts innocently enough, with a chip out of the Leafs’ zone by Connor Brown after Morgan Rielly gets the puck behind the team’s net. Zdeno Chara has a bad pinch, and then Hyman then wins a footrace against a pair of Bruins to gain a 1-on-1 situation against a helpless Tuukka Rask after he crosses the crease and fires the backhand home. It was, in short, a quintessential Zach Hyman goal. Hard work, nothing pretty, but a great forecheck and making something out of nothing. Strap on those boots and head to the construction site. Log those hours in the mill. For a Toronto-born kid, Zach Hyman sure has a lot of farm-boy quality to him.

Maybe it’ll be the only goal he scores all series. After all, his 15 goals over the course of the season average out to one about every five and a half games.

And after being stapled to Auston Matthews virtually since day one of the the latter’s career, it looks like they’ll be separated for at least the start of tomorrow night’s game.

Hyman’s story is both a traditional and a fairly unique one. Like many, he grew up playing in the Greater Toronto Hockey League. However, he chose the OJHL route before he headed off to the University of Michigan, became a 5th round draft pick, and was acquired by the Leafs in a trade for Gregg McKegg, who’s since been in three NHL organizations and has spent about equal amounts of time at the AHL and NHL levels. As both players are age 25 (and considering Florida placed him on waivers before Tampa Bay claimed him last season), it’s pretty clear to declare Hyman’s acquisition a success story in Toronto.

Zach Hyman won’t likely be the make or break factor in this series, as at the end of the day, there’s players with more talent and more skill on both sides of the ice. But with three more years left on his contract, he’s likely here to stay, and he’s a reliable top-six contributor who’s clearly shown he’s capable of handling the big moments. Zach Hyman isn’t elite, but he’s pretty darn good, and every play he makes like the one he did last night gives the Leafs just a little extra edge in their chances of winning this series.

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  • lukewarmwater

    Great article on the only gritty player on the top line as Hyman took a pounding in front of the net unlike his line mates who played a peripheral game. I’ve got to believe Matthews is still having back issues as he winced in pain on one check from 170 lb. Marchand. Absolutely right Hyman is a the type of player you need in the playoffs. This is a major problem of the current leafs whose rebuild has been splendid for a regular season but you need several grinders on the forward lines who take no prisoners and a physical defence. Sadly Babcock has at this point put together a typical Detroit playoff team that couldn’t handle the physical play in the playoffs.
    But this is still a rebuild and I would think the $7 million dollar coach would figure it out that he has to build a raw meat eating , hit anything group to go along with finest players. Currently we have too many finest players who excel during the regular season but come the playoffs are simply pushed off the puck or get sandwiched between two bruins and are given an elbow sandwich for extra measure. You don’t raise the Lady Byng trophy after winning 16 playoff games. Now Kadri was having a horrible time scoring as he had the hands of stone Komarov as his line mate. As soon as the anchor Uncle Leo was replaced by Mitch Marner, Kadri exploded in goals and assists.
    So sad to see a talented player like Matthews having an anchor on the line as Leo truly can’t score and would have trouble in a race against Polak.
    But heh we have the $7 million dollar man and the other playoff teams don’t. Btw Leaping Lou made one extremely bad move in obtaining the washed up has been Plekanec who can’t skate and is thus an anchor to the speedy Kappy and Johnsson. Send this Hab reject back to the A.H.L. Habs for a bag of pucks.