Within seconds of sharing the ice together, the partnership fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs were clamouring for created some magic.
Auston Matthews and Patrick Marleau were sent over the boards together when the lines were muddled in the second period Wednesday versus the Winnipeg Jets, and almost immediately dissected the opposing defence.
Connor Carrick and Mitch Marner teamed up to execute an efficient zone entry, springing Matthews with speed. The Maple Leafs star drew Jacob Trouba and Dustin Byfuglien to him before sending a backhand pass into the skates of a cutting Marleau. It allowed the veteran to quickly pull the puck over to his backhand and tuck it around the pad of Steve Mason for a fourth Toronto goal in his debut.
Though outplayed early in the opener, the Maple Leafs look the the complete three-line attack poised to give teams fits this season. And while the immediate chemistry between Matthews and Marleau will ignite those fans who insist he should replace Zach Hyman on the top line (and they’re right, Hyman simply doesn’t have that move in his arsenal), the veteran demonstrated that his finishing ability wouldn’t be exclusive to Matthews’ wing.
Just seconds into the third, Nazem Kadri threaded a pass through a few pairs of skates for Marleau to whip home, ending Mason’s night.
Alignment aside, it’s an enormously positive start for the veteran, who counted just two multi-goal games all of last season.