Season 100 for the Toronto Maple Leafs was special to say the least.
October can’t come soon enough, and so while you’re stuck watching baseball to fill the gaping hole in your Leafs deprived heart, let’s reminisce a little.
Here are the top-six Leafs moments from the 2016-17 season.
1. 4-goal debut
It wouldn’t be fitting to start anywhere else.
After all, this is where it all began, when Auston Matthews became the first player in NHL history to score four goals in his NHL debut.
It was a sign of things to come.
2. OT winner outdoors
By the end of December, Matthews had already recorded 18 goals and his dominance continued entering the new year. During the Centennial Classic, he scored goals 19 and 20 in Toronto’s 5-4 overtime win against the Detroit Red Wings.
After blowing a 4-1 third period lead, Matthews scored his 20th of the season to end the game in overtime.
A total 40,148 people filled the stands at BMO field that afternoon, setting a new attendance record for any Leafs home game.
3. Nylander tallies his first NHL hat trick
Do you remember those William Nylander trade rumours circulating not too long ago? They didn’t make sense then and they certainly don’t make sense now, with Nylander being one of Toronto’s key forwards heading into a very bright future.
Let’s rewind to February 4 when Nylander scored his first-career hat trick against the Boston Bruins. The game was eerily similar to the 4-1 collapse in the 2013 postseason, but Toronto held on this time to secure a 6-5 win late in period three.
Toronto couldn’t have done it without Nylander’s help, and let’s not forget he got even better late in the season. He was the NHL Rookie of the Month for March, going on a 12-game point streak and setting another rookie franchise record for the blue and white.
He was also the NHL’s Rookie of the Month in October.
Now tell me, who in their right mind would want to trade a player like that?
4. Leafs secure playoff berth, Matthews nets 40
Two things happened this night.
Matthews became the first Leaf to net 40 goals since Mats Sundin did it in 2001-02, and Toronto clinched its first playoff berth after an 82-game regular season since 2004.
There’s no better way to cap off such an incredible season.
5. Kapanen evens series against Capitals
When Toronto entered its first playoff series since 2013, everyone thought the Washington Capitals would walk all over them.
And considering Kasperi Kapanen had a single assist in eight regular season games, he sure came up big in Game 2.
No one saw it coming, especially not Braden Holtby, when he netted the double overtime winner.
He finished the AHL season with 43 points in as many games, and currently has six points in five games in the Calder Cup playoffs. Expect Kapanen to make a push for a roster spot next season.
6. Leafs take series lead over capitals
Just when everyone thought one win was too good to be true, Toronto came right back to take the series lead in Game 3.
Tyler Bozak was the overtime hero, scoring on the power play, sending the Air Canada Centre into a frenzy.
It had to put a smile on Dart Guy’s face.
When you see that the Leafs play the Capitals in the playoffs VS when you see the Leafs take a 2-1 series lead over the Capitals pic.twitter.com/6lBmsmCXat
— Zain (@ZainL96) April 18, 2017
With so many great moments in a memorable season, we’ve got a few honourable mentions:
- February 6, 2017 – Zach Hyman scores his third shorthanded goal to set another Leafs rookie record
- March 28, 2017 – Matthews scores his 35th goal to break Wendel Clark’s rookie scoring record, which stood since the 1985-86 season.
- March 30, 2017 – Mitch Marner records his 41st assist, passing Gus Bodnar’s rookie record held since 1943-44.
- April 9, 2017 -Leafs end the regular season as the first team in NHL history to have six different rookies play at least 70 games. Also worthy of note, Frederik Andersen’s 33rd win is the most by a Leaf goalie in nine years.
Mike Babcock on his prediction of "pain" for Leafs that didn't quite come true: "That was before I knew we were getting Auston Matthews."
— Damien Cox (@DamoSpin) April 26, 2017
Instead of “pain,” 2016-17 was filled with euphoric optimism and excitement.
What a year.