Knee Jerk Reaction: Matthews, Domi, new-look 1st line storm the Capitals

Toronto Maple Leafs
Photo credit:Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Arun Srinivasan
29 days ago
  1. The second night of a back-to-back on the road often constitutes what we know as a ‘schedule loss’ — and few would’ve been too upset if the Toronto Maple Leafs collectively showed up in second gear. No matter. Toronto instead responded with one of its best performances of the 2024 calendar year, throttling the Washington Capitals 7-3 on Wednesday night.
TJ Brodie was rendered a healthy scratch before the game and Conor Timmins entered the lineup. Brodie’s nominal partner, Morgan Rielly, was paired with Jake McCabe and looked relatively unencumbered against a Capitals team that failed to register much of a threat, save for their generational captain, of course.
Auston Matthews set the tone early. Playing on a new-look first line alongside Bobby McMann and Max Domi for the majority of the first period, Matthews scored 16 seconds into the contest as McMann hounded the Capitals’ defense — making a strong case for extended top-six minutes, got the puck over to Max Domi, who in turn found Matthews. Matthews and Domi submitted tour-de-force performances, the latter recording a career-high four assists, while McMann registered a goal and an assist. Tyler Bertuzzi rejoined Matthews and Domi midway through the first period after being inexplicably benched, and notched an insurance goal late in the third period.
As for Matthews, well, he simply makes the spectacular seem routine and this is a reminder not take No. 34’s brilliance for granted.
Matthews finished with two goals, five points, a game-high five shots in all situations, he won 65 percent of his faceoffs, was on the ice for four goals, none against and both lines he played on for extended shifts posted over 59 percent of the expected goals via Natural Stat Trick. That’s underselling his performance, frankly. Matthews initially notched a hat-trick but the goal was called off due to a successful challenge for offsides.
Although it was 4-3 early in the third period, the result never felt in doubt. Alexander Ovechkin showed that he’s still a generational goal-scoring talent if you afford him endless room and space and he notched a brace when the Maple Leafs showed a few lapses. This may be our last glimpse of Ovechkin approximating anything near his peak form, for one night only.
William Nylander and John Tavares were quietly terrific too, each finishing with a goal and two assists. But the night belonged to Auston Matthews, as it often does, and Max Domi, who has never looked more comfortable as a playmaker in a Maple Leafs uniform. Schedule losses and trap games are for the birds. We’ll see you Saturday night when the Maple Leafs take on another generational scorer in Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers.

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