This article originally appeared on VICE Sports Canada.
Patrik Laine vs. Auston Matthews is the new NHL player rivalry. They're destined to have wonderful battles for years. They'll be compared from now until the day they retire. Just how enthralling was their matchup in Toronto on Tuesday?
Two goals for Laine, giving him 30 on the season. Three assists for Matthews, including one on the overtime winner. This is Alex Ovechkin vs. Sidney Crosby for the next generation.
And that's what worries me—this is Alex Ovechkin vs. Sidney Crosby for the next generation.
The way the NHL is marketed by the league and covered by the media has ruined me. Laine/Matthews was enjoyable for about 15 minutes before I became the old, wise philosopher that emerges from his cave to warn the naïve young people about what's in store for them.
Sure, Ovechkin vs. Crosby has reached the "we appreciate and cherish this" phase. But it took a decade to get here. We had to first slice through the wasteland of takes. We had to hear about how Ovechkin is selfish and not a winner. We had to hear about how Crosby must be better because he is a winner. We couldn't just enjoy their skill-laden head-to-head clashes because the hockey world is a dumpster fire when it comes to this stuff.
Now look at what we have.
Laine is a winger with a personality specializing in scoring goals on a team that looks a great distance from being a contender. And he just had a two-goal game in a loss against a team that saw Matthews set up the winning goal.
Matthews is a center on a team that has a shot at the playoffs in his rookie season and part of an organization that appears to have a plan. He'll probably be named captain before his third season, just like Crosby.
When the Jets spend the next five seasons not winning a Cup, who do you think will get the blame? When the Leafs win a Cup in the next five seasons, who do you think will get that Conn Smythe Trophy even though Mitch Marner or William Nylander deserve it?
And Finland is basically the Russia of Scandinavia and America is the new Canada as the world's hockey power based on the most recent World Junior Championship.
Heck, it's very likely Laine wins the Calder Trophy and Matthews finishes second. Where have we seen that before?
All the signs are there! Wake up, people!
So listen to me, millennials. Or whatever we're calling the people younger than millennials. Don't make the mistake of the older generation. Don't let dummies suck you into a stupid debate about how Laine won't ever win a Cup when the Jets are probably still employing Ondrej Pavelec in some capacity. Don't let the NHL jamming these two down your throats ruin the on-ice fun. Don't believe Finnish reports that Laine is considering leaving the NHL for the KHL or Finnish league in 2021. Don't blame Matthews for disappointing Leafs postseasons if his general manager has nothing beyond the top two lines.
Just be happy you get to see this for a long time.