Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine Square Off Again

Nobody knew quite what to expect when the Winnipeg Jets and the Toronto Maple Leafs met for the first time this season. It was the first time that the number one and two over draft picks Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine faced each other on NHL ice.

If you recall, it was only seven days into the young 2016-17 NHL season. It was only Toronto’s third game, and Winnipeg’s fourth.

It took place only seven days after Auston Matthews’ stunning four-goal debut game and as a result the NHL had fallen head over heals for Matthews. Laine had yet to impress in the rookie scoring race.

But it was Laine who stole the show that night, back on Oct. 19 in Winnipeg. While Matthews was left off the scoreboard, Laine tallied three goals including the overtime winner.

Though the NHL is rife with rookie talent this year, Matthews and Laine stand out as among the league’s most elite goal scorers. They stood out when they were drafted consecutively first and second overall and they continue to stand out today.

THat WAS THEN, THIS IS NOW: THE JETS & LAINE

The Winnipeg Jets weren’t exactly in hot shape when they faced the Leafs back in October. They had gone 1-2-0 in their first three games with a 3.75 goals against average. Nor was much really expected of the team this season.

One could comfortably say that the Jets are in a transitional stage at the moment. Not quite in full rebuild mode but not ready to compete for the cup either. Sitting fifth in the Central Division with 61 points, it’s unlikely they’ll even grab a playoff spot.

Though they are only four points from a wild card position, they lack the games in hand that many of their Central Division competitors hold.

Then

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Auston Matthews Patrik Lane

Photo credit: Jonathan Kozub, NHLI via Getty Images

Still, Patrik Laine shines on.

In four fewer games than Matthews, the Finnish rookie has tallied three more points and a better plus/minus rating than the young American.

Though he shoots far less than Matthews, Laine has managed to find the back of the net just as much and with far fewer shots on goal.

He has played remarkably consistent but let us not forget the explosiveness of Laine’s game. He has amassed an incredible three hat tricks this year, making him the first Jets’ rookie to do so since Teemu Selanne managed five in his rookie season.

Now

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THAT WAS THEN, THIS IS NOW: THE LEAFS & MATTHEWS

As with the Jets, very little was expected of the Toronto Maple Leafs entering the 2016-17 season. They were 1-0-1 when they met the Jets back in October and destined for mediocrity. But then some strange happened. The Atlantic Division began to cave in on itself.

Though the Leafs are in the middle of a major rebuild, they find themselves competing for a playoff spot in the mess that is the Atlantic Division. Seven teams are within 10 points of first place and the Leafs are within only five.

While it remains unlikely that they will leave the Boston Bruins, Ottawa Senators, Montreal Canadiens (or even the Florida Panthers for that matter) in their dust, the Toronto Maple Leafs may very well make the playoffs.

It is well within reason to believe that that the Toronto Maple Leafs will make the playoffs for the first time four years.

Then

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Auston Matthews Patrik Lane

Photo credit: Adre Ringuette, NHLI via Getty Images

And that’s in large part due to the outstanding play of Auston Matthews.

Matthews wasted no time showing the league what he was made of with his four goal debut. Only seven players in NHL history had managed a hat trick in their first game while Matthews went ahead and did one better.

With over 200 shots on goal this season it should come as no surprise that he has already eclipsed the 20 goal plateau. Matthews has 28 goals and 49 points on the season which makes him first among Leafs players in both categories.

Matthews is a big part of the reason why Toronto is even competing for a playoff spot this year.

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WHAT TO EXPECT

The game takes place tonight, in Toronto, at 7:30 p.m. EST.

Winnipeg is 14-15-2 on the road so far this season and sport a 7-6-1 record against Atlantic Division foes. Meanwhile, Toronto is 13-9-4 at home this season have gone 3-5-3 against Central Division competitors this campaign.

Winnipeg won 5-4 in overtime back on Oct. 19 and it would be fair to assume another high scoring affair is in order this time around.

Aside from Matthews and Laine, plenty of young-talent will be on display as well. Toronto’s William Nylander, Connor Brown and Nikita Zaisev will suit up along with Winnipeg’s Josh Morrissey. Expect a fast-paced, high-scoring, two-way game with lots of shots on goal.

It remains unclear whether or not Toronto’s Mitch Marner will suit up. He is dealing with an undisclosed injury which has kept him out of two-contests so far.

 

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

Brent Burns, Alexander Ovechkin, Connor McDavid, Patrick Kane, San Jose Sharks, Minnesota Wild, NHL, Hockey, Goals, Assists, Points, Forward, Defenseman, Shots on Goal

Brent Burns is a Beautiful Beast

Brent Burns, Alexander Ovechkin, Connor McDavid, Patrick Kane, San Jose Sharks, Minnesota Wild, NHL, Hockey, Goals, Assists, Points, Forward, Defenseman, Shots on Goal

Photo credit: Mark Humphrey, American Press.

Brent Burns is both a beauty and a beast.

Drafted in the first round (20th overall) by the Minnesota Wild, Burns was traded to the San Jose Sharks in 2011. The hulking blue liner has spent 12 seasons in the NHL, played in 837 games, and accumulated 462 points in that span.

Still, it appears that the Brent Burns show has just begun.

Though the 6’ 5”, 200 lb blue liner has been all the rage around Norris Trophy water cooler conversations this year, Burns has not always been the elite defenseman he is today.

In fact, it wasn’t until he was drafted by the Minnesota Wild that Burns began to play defense. If it weren’t for Jacques Lemaire – Minnesota’s Head Coach at the time – Burns may never had adapted his game for the blue line. But he did. Earning himself a spot on the Wild’s blue line.

Arm chair General Managers have long known of Burns’ value. Fantasy hockey league’s (like that of Yahoo or ESPN) have in the past listed him as both a defenseman and a forward; providing invaluable mobility to make-believe rosters across this great land.

More recently, though, especially since being traded to San Jose, Burns had made the blue line his permanent position. He is no longer available as a forward in fantasy leagues but that has hardly affected his offensive output.

Having finished last season’s 2015/16 campaign with an incredible 27 goals, 48 assists, and 75 points, Burns came in third on the ballet for Norris Trophy votes.

This year, however, is different.

He is among one of the best in his position, accumulating more 5 on 5 points than any other defenseman in the league this year. He also leads the position in goals and is currently on pace to eclipse his point total from last year. With 15 goals, 24 assists, and 39 points Burns boasts a league leading 160 shots on goal.

I repeat, a LEAGUE leading 160 shots on goal. A stat line all the more impressive when you realize that he has accomplished all of this from the blue line.

To put it in perspective, Burns has more shots on goal than some of the league’s most elite shooters; including the likes of Alexander Ovechkin (151), Patrick Kane (138), and Connor McDavid (123).

But Brent Burns is oh so much more than your typical hockey player.

His personality is larger than life.

With a beard bigger than father time’s and fewer teeth and a four-year old, Burns has what many would call a magnetic personality.

He is a self-proclaimed animal lover, he and his Lake Elmo home (nicknamed the Burns Zoo) was even a subject of CBC’s “Inside Hockey.”

Active on twitter, @Burzie88 never disappoints.

 

 

 

His most recent exploits has the toothless wonder team up with Subway to scare the sh*t out of customers and fans.

 

 

On the ice, Brent Burns is a force to be reckoned with. Off the ice he is just a big teddy bear.

Brent Burns is both a beauty and a beast.