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Photo Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Hit ’em with the GIFs of Auston Matthews

It’s time for some more GIFs, folks. Auston Matthews is the fourth player I’ll be covering in this fashion. In case you missed the first three you can go to my author page here to find similar pieces on Jake Gardiner, Mitch Marner and William Nylander. Let’s get right into it because I’m excited for this.

Aaaand I’ll just take that real quick

A Montreal Canadien forward (Brian Flynn?) is curling through the neutral zone seemingly with some space to skate when Matthews’ stick comes out of nowhere and takes the puck like it’s nothing. He then dances around another Canadien forward and heads into the offensive zone. I truly marvel at Matthews’ ability to take the puck from other NHL players while making it look really easy.

Auston can get a good shot off from any awkward body position

The ability to get a hard shot off from awkward body positions is another prevalent skill I just love to watch. Here is obviously a great example, as he’s stationary in the slot with his toes facing the net and his stick off to the side. He somehow catches the puck and immediately rifles it off the crossbar and in. The technique and wrist strength it takes to do this is off the charts.

Role reversal with Jake Gardiner

I like this play because Matthews and Gardiner switch their usual roles in the breakout. This time it’s Matthews with the exit pass to a streaking Gardiner who starts a nice passing play with Connor Brown and Zach Hyman, but Hyman just misses.

Being too unselfish

If you’re Auston Matthews and you’re offered a clear shot from that close, you take it every time. He’s usually good for that (he was top ten in the NHL in shots), but here he elects to force a pass to Brown on the two on one. I’m sure the coaches encouraged the kid to be a little more selfish after this one.

Dancing around the defender and drawing a penalty

As soon as Lindell commits to the board side by crossing over that way and swinging a poke check, Matthews puts it under the stick, beating him easily. He’s now in alone on Antti Niemi and Lindell is forced to take a penalty on him.

Is John Tavares trying to tell us something?

John Tavares to the Leafs confirmed.

Working with his teammates in the defensive zone

This one was a team effort. They had been stuck in their zone for a brief period and John Klingberg takes a shot from the point, leading to Gardiner controlling the puck in the corner. When he gives it to Hyman, who has nowhere to go, Matthews and Brown converge into the area for support. This makes it easy for Hyman, who just pushes it up the boards to Matthews who pushes it up to Brown who chases it into the neutral zone.

Working with his teammates in the offensive zone

Another good display of teamwork from the same four players a few minutes later. It starts with Hyman working the puck down below the goal line (as always) and then a pinch from Gardiner, who chips it to the middle to Matthews who had been retreating to cover for Gardiner. Hyman and Brown are now both in front of the goaltender so Matthews takes a quick shot through traffic where Hyman does his best to bully both the puck and the goaltender into the net.

Defence leading to offence

Again this line does a good job of giving the opposition nothing in the offensive zone. Matthews and Brown force the Stars forward up to the blueline where Hyman cuts him off and forces a turnover. Brown makes a quick pass up to Hyman and he’s now on a two on one with Matthews.

Again beating a Stars defender and drawing a penalty

This time Matthews exposes the Stars best defenceman in John Klingberg. It’s a one on one with Antoine Roussel trailing closely behind him. Right when Matthews brings it to the forehand Klingberg has to get his stick into the lane to protect against that lethal shot which Matthews can unleash in a moment’s notice. As soon as Klingberg pivots to that side, Matthews goes around him on the other side, forcing Roussel to take a penalty on him.

Again managing a good shot from an awkward shooting position

This is another shot that really stood out to me. It’s a long shot which gives the goalie no trouble, but just the way he gets it off is really impressive. He pulls it into his feet and just leans into it in one motion, getting it off in a hurry.

Spin-o-rama pass from behind the net

Kind’ve like the one he made to Komarov against the Capitals, except without the backhand toe drag and Hyman missed the puck.

Using some fancy footwork to set up Connor Brown

Here he opens his feet up like Gardiner and Jeff Skinner do in order to deceive the defenders. This way he can either pivot to the middle or to the outside quickly, but he finds Brown cruising into the slot behind him and Brown rings it off the bar.

Toying with the Islanders

Well this is extremely aesthetically pleasing on the eyeballs. He picks off the puck at the defensive blue line with a guy coming right at him, so he just quickly toe drags him. Then, with another guy on his back and the puck rolling, he chips the puck over another Islanders’ stick at the redline. He eventually runs out of room in the offensive zone and just throws the puck at the net from the corner, but he does a lot of stuff in a short period of time with the puck here.

PP goal vs the Islanders

I just didn’t know you could make a backhand flick shot one timer look pretty.

Pickpocketing Casey Cizikas and then immediately scoring

Another example of Matthews’ Datsyuk-like ability to steal pucks from players. This time he victimizes Casey Cizikas just before he gets the puck out, then he plays a give and go with Hyman down low, scoring on the return feed.

I think he surprised Korpisalo 

Once again Matthews gets a hard shot off from a suboptimal shooting position. He’s skating backward away from the net with two defender’s sticks in the lane, but he somehow still wires a shot at the top corner on the glove side. Korpisalo was clearly surprised by this as he looks extremely awkward lunging at the puck, which grazes his shoulder and goes off the crossbar.

Being a puck thief again

Are you seeing a trend here? This time the Blue Jackets think they’re about to get the puck and ice it on the penalty kill, but Matthews has different ideas. He quickly strips it from Matt Calvert and feeds Gardiner who is by himself at the far post. Gardiner tries to feed it back across to Brown, but there is a defender in the way and the puck ends up covered after some brief chaos.

Royal road pass to Nylander who scores

Matthews gets the puck at the point on the powerplay with a defender charging toward him. Matthews starts to back up across the blueline just long enough for the defender to pivot to the middle. Matthews then stops up and quickly heads the other way, down the boards, before feeding Nylander across the ice. Nylander makes no mistake. This one was also featured in the Nylander piece, but both players made great plays so it makes it into both.

Drawing another penalty

When Matthews decides he’s going to dominate down low, you’re in trouble. His stops and starts with the puck as well as his pivots are extremely strong. He can be going one way one second and the next he’s accelerating the other way and you’re three steps behind him. Here he forces the defenceman to take a penalty by doing so.

That goal where he was flying through the air facing away from the net

Yeah, you’ve all seen this one. Low-key awesome rim pass by Gardiner, though.

Dancing around the forechecker, zone exit, zone entry

Again showing off his acceleration by going from stationary with a forechecker right on him to flying out of the zone after a little under the stick move. He then brings it into the offensive zone where he gives it off to Nylander who also makes some magic, but is stopped by the goaltender.

I like to think he did this on purpose

Do you think he did that on purpose? I actually still have no clue, but I really would not be surprised in the slightest.

Somehow missed this in the Gardiner piece

This was one of my favourite moments of the season, yet I somehow missed it when doing the Gardiner piece. So, since Matthews had the primary assist, I’ll slip it in here.

Showing off some wonderful hand-eye coordination 

Just flicks it over the defenceman’s stick on the backhand, then knocks it down out of the air and feeds a streaking Komarov who has slipped behind the defence. Unfortunately Komarov is on the backhand and can’t handle the pass.

Another gorgeous shot

Yet another example of that beautiful release in traffic. Also, a Josh Leivo appearance!

This is simply unfair

I don’t even know what to say. Just enjoy that a few times.

Again victimizing a Kings player

I think he might have played well this game.

Near OT winner vs. the Kings

Okay he was on a mission.

Defence leading to offence 2.0

He’s in good position in the defensive zone to pick off an errant pass in front of his own net, then he skates it out himself all the way into the offensive zone. Then he picks it out of the moving pile behind the net around Niklas Kronwall and steps out front, nearly scoring. Just doing it all.

Making zone exit passes again

Again providing the zone exit, this time to Nikita Zaitsev. I’d like to see Zaitsev use his speed to push play like this more often.

Showing off some vision

I don’t see where he looked behind him to see Zaitsev, but he must have at some point because he hits him on the tape seemingly without even looking.

Defence leading to offence 3.0

This is some pretty teamwork right here. Matthews scoops the puck up on the backcheck, who gives it to Rielly, who gives it to Nylander curling back into the zone with speed who gives it to Connor Carrick coming up the middle. Carrick then skates it to the offensive blueline, drawing the defenders toward him and dumping back over to Nylander along the boards in the zone.

More playmaking 

The little hesitation before Matthews rounds the back of the net gets Tuukka Rask down early. Matthews continues around the net where he finds a pinching Roman Polak! Polak takes the one-timer from a dangerous area, but unfortunately the puck doesn’t find the back of the net.

Scoring on the Sabres and Robin Lehner is a very good thing

I just like to watch sad Robin Lehner, really.

The most prolific rookie Leaf goal scorer of all-time

On former Leaf James Reimer, no less! I hope this didn’t make James too sad though because he seems like a very nice person.

Playoffs Papi

Good work by both Hyman and Matthews on the forecheck here before Matthews makes a really nice area pass to Nylander, but he’s robbed by Holtby. This is also a recurring GIF.

Dominating overtime

This is pure dominance in double overtime. This GIF is ten seconds and he steals the puck twice while also attempting three shots. This could’ve been such a great OT winner.

Did I mention he’s good at takeaways?

Unfortunately this ends with Matthews missing the puck with an empty net, but it starts with another takeaway, this time on Evgeny Kuznetsov in the neutral zone.

Scoring on a one on three

This took some fortunate bounces and he deserves it because he worked very hard for it and he deserves the best.

Primary assist on Nylander’s first playoff goal

Hyman does his thing, going hard on the forecheck where Matthews follows in behind him. Nylander is left alone right in the slot and Matthews finds him, putting it right on his tape. Nylander is stopped on the first shot, but not the second.

Scoring in tight again

Nylander makes a nice play to get it to the net while fending off Dmitri Orlov and Matthews is in his office. The puck comes loose and Matthews quickly takes it from backhand to forehand before roofing it over Braden Holtby. His hands in tight areas are extremely good.

Another takeaway

Again with the takeaways, I know, but this one is a little different than most of his. This one occurs in the corner and he uses his strength to knock Justin Williams off the puck before finding Hyman alone in the slot, who thinks he’s scored, but unfortunately has not.

Kuznetsov doesn’t want to play anymore

He’s making a very good player look not very good again. This time he takes advantage of a bad attempted zone exit pass by Kuznetsov, quickly turning back toward the net and just missing the top corner.

Final playoff goal

This is really quite impressive considering the puck is rolling and Matthews uses it to his advantage. He basically scoops the puck up lacrosse style and flings it straight up over Holtby into the top corner of the net. Not a bad note to end your dream rookie season on.

These pieces are a blast to write and I plan on making several more. The next one will be a bit different in the sense that this particular player hasn’t actually played for the Leafs yet, but it should be a fun one.

 

 

 

 

 

  • AussieBoy

    Just so you know:”Do you think he did that on purpose? I actually still have no clue, but I really would not be surprised in the slightest.”

    In the interview after the game,both Nylander and Mathews confirmed that they had practiced that rebound shot in training.
    Yes,it was on purpose…
    Giggidy.