Three years after being recruited by the Toronto Maple Leafs, Auston Matthews arrived in Toronto on Monday night.
Although they were given every opportunity to do so, the Leafs did not lose. The stalking Bruins obeyed all Canadian laws regarding assault and illegal assault. The special teams of the Leafs appeared. The pace slowed to mid-November, from mid-May. There was no collapse of the final period.
More unusually of all, Matthews was the offensive star. From Toronto's perspective, the sun did not set on Monday. It was daylight throughout the night.
Judged by his norm, Matthews did not present an exceptional statistics sheet: an objective and an assistance.
But for his standard in the playoffs, this was Darryl Sittler running madly when the goalie pads were not the size of sofa cushions.
It was the second time that Matthews scored more than one point in a postseason game. It was his first goal of this series. And, by far, the most important, he did not receive one, not two, but three "real goods" from trainer Mike Babcock.
"Good real legs", "good real defense" and a "good good" general in his game. Babcock not only delivers those "real assets" (unless you ask any question about any subject at any time).
Speaking in the monotonous 2x regular speed that all NHLers now use, Matthews played super cool afterwards.
"Obviously it's good to get one," he said. "It's just another level when you get one in the playoffs."
Despite the real effort to crush banality, it was difficult to recognize. Matthews should know that he has work to do in the area of hearts and minds. Monday was a great help.
(Even a headline dodger as successful as Babcock hit this one: "He's a proud guy … He probably relieved a lot of pressure on him")
At this point, Matthews should be the clear favorite of this team. But it would be difficult for you to put it among the first three.
Mitch Marner is newer and more tender. John Tavares is older and more pedigree. Morgan Rielly is more articulate and every man. Frederik Andersen never says anything, which is the most reliable way you like people. Matthews is the guy who is good when he does not count, but he can still be good later. He is the superstar in the Toronto reserve. No one is on the fence regarding their talent, but many are still in that place when it comes to their ability to force the problem.
The irony is that there is not a hockey city on the continent where it is easier to make people fall in love.
You could see everyone at the Scotiabank Arena doing it on Monday night. It's just a game, and a narrow result of 3-2. No one in blue and white did anything amazing. But neither did anyone do anything stupid or completely crazy. In Toronto, "no idiots" qualifies as a Hall of Fame potential.
In their usual time of collapse (that is, maintain an advantage at any point in the third period), the Leafs became rigid. They seemed collected, while Boston looked bewildered.
When asked what exactly he liked about the Toronto play in the last period, Rielly said: "Well, we won."
When it became clear on a half-dozen faces that he was not expansive enough, Rielly launched into a speech.
But he is right.
In other hockey cities, people are looking for something special in their heroes. In Toronto, you only win from time to time and at least you get a plaque.
This is the city that treats Mats Sundin as if it were Bobby Orr, just a little more Swedish.
It is the club that created a "Legends Row" and, after placing 14 players on it, announced that it was full.
The team has been around for 100 years. Fourteen does not seem like much.
Do you think the Montreal Canadians would stop at 14? They would be making open calls at the sculptors' colleges.
That's what Matthews is trying. Your window to achieve the greatness of Toronto is more like a tear in the structure of space-time. If you ever take it properly, it's not about this generation. It is about each of them returning forever.
First things first, score some goals in a playoff series. Second, second, he wins a series of playoffs. After that, it is negotiable. For now.
The Leafs have a 2-1 advantage in the series. They have returned home with the ice advantage. After the suspension of Nazem Kadri, the series seems to have moved away from the brutality of Game 2.
One supposes that means that it will be a nail through the club leaves and open warfare in Game 4. It is certainly difficult to imagine that the Bruins are passive two games in a row. They can not avoid being what they are. At that time, how ugly it is for officials.
But if this is the new level of violence in which everyone has agreed to play, it could quickly become the Matthews series.
The question is: how good do you want to be?
Well, really good or really, honest to God, something bigger than the Toronto bar, okay?