Last night featured the NHL debut of heavily hyped Toronto Maple Leafs rookie Auston Matthews. It was a big moment for the franchise, which hasn’t had an elite-level prospect in at least a generation or two. The buildup to the game was very exciting. It was also all very confusing for Maple Leaf fans, who aren’t used to actually having something to feel optimistic about.
How do I know? Because I am a Leafs fan, and have been for over 30 years. So I get where Leafs Nation is coming from on this one. But don’t worry, I’m also an unbiased sportswriter, and you can trust me to handle this assignment objectively.
Anyway, Matthews finally made his long-awaited debut on Wednesday night. And in the very first game of the NHL regular-season schedule, on the road against a divisional rival in front of a national TV audience, Matthews went out and had what may well be the greatest debut game in the history of the NHL.
That sounds like hyperbole, but it’s really not. Let’s run through what we just witnessed, in handy Q&A format.
OK, so what just happened?
Matthews didn’t take long to get on the scoreboard, converting a slick setup in front to score his first career goal just eight minutes into the game. The goal came on his first career shot, matching the achievement of another first overall pick, Mario Lemieux. He was just getting started.
Eight minutes later, Matthews picked the pocket of two-time Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson to score his second goal of the period. He finished the hat trick early in the second by ripping a wrist shot from the face-off circle. That made him one of only five players in modern NHL history to record a hat trick in his first game.
At that point, sensing the need to build some suspense, Matthews went over 18 minutes before scoring again. His fourth of the night, on a nifty two-on-one feed from fellow rookie Willian Nylander, officially put him in uncharted territory as the first player since the advent of the forward pass to score four times in his first NHL game.
Needless to say, this was all very exciting for long-suffering Maple Leafs fans. But again, I’m an objective sportswriter, so I can handle it.
So who is Auston Matthews?
WHOEVER HE DAMN WELL WANTS TO BE! WHOOO! SUCK IT, 29 OTHER FAN BASES!
You OK, bud?
Sorry. Sorry, I can do this. Give me another try.