It was a special night for Auston Matthews. His first NHL game in his hometown. At only 19 he is the face of hockey in Arizona, and his own visit there with the Maple Leafs this season saw the Coyotes rink filled to the brim with young hockey players, who will grow up idolizing the young Maple Leaf.
He did not disappoint the thousands who came to see the poster child for southern hockey. He stick handled his way around opponents with ease, bouncing around the boards, avoiding the opposition whenever he was on the ice.
Watching the Fox Sports broadcast for this game, we were treated to stories from Matthews coaches, stories about learning to play hockey in place where it’s a very fringe sport, and an in game interview with the Matthews parents.
Everyone spoke of the impact seeing a local player be drafted first overall, a local player who has more talent then many NHL veterans, a local player for the hundreds of kids to look up to, grow up watching; the kind of impact Auston Matthews has already, and what he will have in the future is astounding.
The crowd oohs and ahhhs with each chance he gets to score. Seeing Auston Matthews at home, helps ease the pain of the loss the home team suffers, however, something close to the Coyotes also happened.
Shane Doan has only ever played for the Arizona Coyotes. He was there in Winnipeg, he wore the ‘Peyote Coyote’ jersey, saw the team almost move to Hamilton, Winnipeg, Seattle, Las Vegas, and Mars.
Tonight was his 1,500th NHL game, all with one franchise. Auston Matthews grew up watching Doan became, as JJ from Kansas says “The classiest dirtiest player”. Coming into tonight's game Doan had 399 goals in his career. Despite not being an offensive superstar, Doan has been loyal to Arizona’s hockey community as long as the Coyotes have been in the state and he’s loved right back.
On the night a true Arizona hockey legend comes home for the first time, an imported one would reach the 400 goal milestone.
Two great stories tonight, the trifecta is lost as the Coyotes fall to the Maple Leafs 4-1.
Feeding Connor Brown the first goal of the game off a turnover from Martin Hanzal, Matthews was able to just barely keep the puck in the offensive zone, before firing a pass to an open Brown who netted the puck.
When Connor Murphy gets called for high sticking almost immediately into the second period, the Maple Leafs power play springs into action. Jake Gardiner rips a shot from the point at the net and Leo Komarov is there to tip in the puck in, and put the Leafs up 2-0.
Nineteen minutes later Shane Doan scores his 400th career goal as the second period is about to end:
Couldn't have scripted it any better. pic.twitter.com/FzbKPDtUoz— Arizona Coyotes (@ArizonaCoyotes) December 24, 2016
Leo Komarov scored again, breaking out on his own to give the Leafs a 3-1 lead:
Finally, William Nylander scores one, the last Maple Leafs goal before the holiday break, by leaving Oliver Ekman-Larsson spinning slowly in circles:
Some very average hockey was played around some very great stories.
Good night, and Merry Christmas to you all.