If last night’s game was any indication, Auston Matthews’ game won’t change much playing with William Nylander instead of Mitch Marner. During the Toronto Maple Leafs’ 5-2 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins, both revamped top lines looked absolutely energized.
Matthews did not score a goal himself, but he sure helped others score. He registered two assists, and he was dominant. He was plus-3 on the night. Nylander scored and added an assist.
Although the focus in last night’s win might have been on the first line of Matthews, Nylander, and Michael Bunting, the stars of the victory were the second line of Tavares, Marner, and Alex Kerfoot. But honestly, both lines were energized in ways they had not been in many games this season.
It would seem that Maple Leafs’ head coach’s decision to separate Matthews and Marner, at least for one night, was a stroke of genius.
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Prior to the Game, Matthews Commented About Playing with Nylander
In an interview prior to last night’s game, included in the video below, Maple Leafs’ Hart Trophy-winning center Matthews discussed being reunited on a line with Nylander. His take was that the twosome had built up considerable chemistry from their time playing together in the past. Therefore, to Matthews’ mind, that chemistry simply doesn’t ever really go away.
Matthews also noted that he wouldn’t change his style much from when he was playing with Marner. Maybe not, but he seemed more of an assist guy tonight that the Rocket Richard Trophy winner.
Matthews Generally Makes Some Specific Points
Matthews specifically noted that he and Nylander have a ton of experience playing together – just not recently. During that time, Matthews noted that “I think the chemistry that we’ve developed in the past … really doesn’t go away too quickly.”
What makes it so easy for Matthews to play with Nylander is that “obviously (Nylander is) a really special player.” However, for Matthews, Nylander is also “a lot of fun to play with.”
Their goal is quite vague, but as Matthews says it’s simply to “try to work off each other and create as much as we can up there.”
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What Makes Nylander and Matthews a Special Combination
Finally, according to Matthews, they feed off each other by “just trying to move into spaces so we can utilize each other.” As you listened to Matthews talk, it’s easy to see that there’s no organized structure to their play. As Matthews noted, he and Nylander “just kind of make plays and read off each other.”
Perhaps the key phrase in that comment was “kind of.” Matthews can’t really explain why it works, but they just “kind of” go out there and support each other all over the ice. It’s more intuitive than planned.
When you have two world-class players creating offence, it just “kind of” works that way.
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