“Yeah, for sure.”
That was Auston Matthews being mindful, but at the same time not shying away when asked Monday morning if he aspires to one day become the face of USA Hockey — a distinction most would consider Patrick Kane’s.
In reality, superseding the superstar may take years and potentially even multiple championship to accomplish. But in the head-to-head matchup with Kane and the Chicago Blackhawks, the kid leading the Toronto Maple Leafs’ resurgence did just about all he could to make progress.
In a contest aching for a spectacular moment, Matthews delivered on what likely would have been his final shift. Collecting the puck that Kane failed to control with the outside of his skate, Matthews danced into the offensive zone and with a look-off unleashed a shot so lethal that even Frederik Andersen was willing to sympathize with his goaltending counterpart Anton Forsberg, who largely brilliant on the night.
It took a while for him to light up Air Canada Centre, but Matthews’ moment was more-than earned. Instead of matching up against the bolstered No. 1 unit centered by Jonathan Toews like most expected leading up to the matchup between undefeated teams, Matthews predominantly drew Kane and his uber-offensive second line.
Babcock preferred fire against fire. Quenneville obliged. And one side was toasted.
Matthews’ winner was the 35th shot attempt counted by the Maple Leafs with their star pivot on the ice. That compared to five against.
This massive discrepancy, of course, meant Kane was snowed in for large portions of the game – and the numbers are there to corroborate. Kane finished with a negative-22 shot-attempt differential in all situations, or the worst among Blackhawks.
Yeah, for sure? Monday it looked like “Damn right.”
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