Wednesday, 19 October 2016

No Fin(n)ish Jokes

When the top-two draft picks from last year's NHL Entry Draft deflect all questions about them meeting in their first NHL game, you know that both are focused on winning hockey games. The Toronto Maple Leafs visited the MTS Centre tonight to meet the Winnipeg Jets. The Jets were certainly floundering after having been thumped by a Boston team a couple of days earlier after the Bruins were hammered by the Leafs on Saturday. Needless to say, both young teams needed their best players to show up tonight and play well. And we got a helluva performance from one of those players tonight at the Phone Booth in downtown Winnipeg.

I will admit that things looked bleak after the Maple Leafs built a 4-0 lead through the first 30 minutes of the game. The Jets looked confused, discombobulated, and entirely lost at times. The Leafs, meanwhile, went about their business methodically as head coach Mike Babcock had laid out, and the results were fairly evident on the scoreboard.

And then Mark Scheifele woke up. Scheifele has arguably been one of the best Jets in the early going this season, and his setup to Tyler Myers was reminiscent of Scheifele's confident play from late last season. As the top-line centerman, he is expected to carry a load, perhaps even a larger load with Bryan Little out, and he certainly made a great play to Myers to break the shutout. The Jets, though, still trailed by three goals with only 20 minutes to play.

And then the kid woke up. Patrik Laine, whose shooting skills and goal-scoring ability were lauded up to, during, and after the draft, suddenly figured out Fredrik Andersen as he scored his second goal of the season just under the crossbar just 1:00 into the period.
That's a heckuva shot, and Laine's goal made it 4-2. Mark Scheifele, who I mentioned above, added his third goal of the season at 6:05 of the third period. Suddenly, we had a game on out hands, and you could feel the momentum shift on the Scheifele goal as the Jets seemed to get a burst of energy while the Leafs appeared to be back on their heels.

And then Laine hit the scoresheet again with his biggest NHL goal yet as he tied the game with 55 seconds to play!
Ehlers finds Patrik Laine in his familiar spot that we've seen him occupy so many times before, and Laine made no mistake in burying the shot to tie the game at 4-4 with the power-play goal. Clearly, the kid can score goals if he gets into shooting locations on the ice. It's just up to the Jets to find him in those locations on the ice when the stick is in the air.

Auston Matthews, who had an assist in this game, was relatively quiet up to this point, but he had a chance in overtime to end this game. On the breakaway, however, he was stopped by Michael Hutchinson, and that led to the following sequence.
Holy jumpin'! Notice who was chasing Laine up the ice while looking gassed? #34 and first-overall pick Auston Matthews. And he got a heckuva look at the winning goal that Laine wristed past Andersen for his first NHL hat trick, his first NHL overtime goal, and first NHL game-winning goal. Not a bad night for the second-overall pick at all!

They say the NHL is becoming a young man's game. Tonight's scoresheet showed this. Check out the names of the goal-scorers: Carrick, Kadri, Nylander, Myers, Scheifele, and Laine. The oldest player in all those names is Tyler Myers who is 26 years old, some eight months older than Nazim Kadri. Let's not forget about all the other young players on these two rosters either as players like Connor, Morrissey, Lowry, Zaitsev, Marner, and Matthews all played major roles for their teams.

These two teams have bright futures in the next few seasons if these players keep electrifying crowds and fans. While there will be some struggles this season and possibly next season, there is no doubt that these two teams have the horses to be dangerous in the future.

Tonight's game, though, was a heckuva a Finnish finish.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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