PITTSBURGH — Like most people in the hockey world, the Capitals were awestruck by Auston Matthews’ four-goal NHL debut on Wednesday night.
“It was pretty amazing,” captain Alex Ovechkin said of the No. 1 overall pick’s big night. “Those kids [are] unbelievable. …It’s pretty special. He’s a great kid and he’s going to have a great future.”
Defenseman Matt Niskanen was wowed, in particular, by Matthews’ highlight-reel second goal.
“Pretty incredible,” Niskanen said. “That sounds like a boring adjective. But he set a record, obviously. That second goal, I think, was the most impressive. Just the confidence and strength and skill combined to hang onto that puck, make something happen in the neutral zone and strip a Norris Trophy-type defenseman, and then put it five-hole from a sharp angle. It was pretty impressive. I’m sure he had the adrenaline going because it was his first game. He showed his skill, for sure.”
Goaltender Braden Holtby liked what he saw, as well. But he also likes the fact that Matthews’ arrival in Toronto could help spark the dormant Maple Leafs, who are one of the league’s flagship franchises.
“It’s pretty spectacular in his first game,” Holtby said. “Everything kind of went in for him, it looked like. It’s good to see, though. Being a Western Canadian boy, you’re not really cheering for the Leafs. But it’s good to see because [Toronto] is such a big part of our league. It helps us all if they have a good team with some excitement. And it looks like he can do that. “
Coach Barry Trotz, meanwhile, took a step back to appreciate the big picture.
“That was pretty incredible,” he said. “What a start for one of the new faces in the league. You look at the last couple of years, [adding] a Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews, our game is in pretty good shape. The torch looks like it’s going to get handed to those guys in the near future.”
Asked why he thinks younger players are having a bigger impact these days, Trotz said: “It’s evolution. Players are bigger, faster, stronger. They’re more prepared. They have better training methods. All that being said, that’s why the younger guys are having more impact than they did maybe 15-20 years ago. …What he did last night was pretty incredible. And it wasn’t that he was doing it against weak players or a weak team. He was against Norris Trophy candidates and winners and top players from the other team. So it was pretty impressive.”
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