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Did Sheldon Keefe drop the ball handling Auston Matthews?

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Photo credit:(Photo from Steven Ellis/Daily Faceoff)
Shane Seney
1 month ago
Timing is everything and right now, the Toronto Maple Leafs are on the wrong side of it.
It was to everyone’s surprise during the final frame of Game 4, that Auston Matthews didn’t come out of the Leafs’ tunnel for action. Instead, Toronto had to try and come back from a 3-0 deficit without the best goal scorer on the planet. As expected, they couldn’t complete the comeback without their best player.
After the game, Sheldon Keefe confirmed the doctors pulled Matthews between the final two periods, which is a very strange sequence in itself. It’s also worth pointing out that Keefe was adamant before the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs that he wouldn’t be giving medical updates every day on his players, and now he’s providing up-to-the-minute reviews. What a turn of events. So much head-scratching has gone on so far these playoffs and it’s absolute wild times around the Maple Leafs.
Back to Matthews’ health, Keefe provided some more details stating before the Maple Leafs’ practiced this week, a practice that didn’t include Matthews or any placeholders on the top line:
Not much update there. Luckily, again, we’ve got a couple of days here and we thought the last couple of days would help us. It’s whatever reason, it’s not one of those run-of-the-mill, everyday- type of illnesses that sort of come and go. It’s lingered. The effects have lingered and it’s gotten worse every time he gets out on the ice asserting himself. We’ve just got to manage that and give him the time that he needs.
So, how far back has this sickness been lingering? Two weeks, three weeks? If indeed is an illness and it’s not an injury Matthews is playing through, because who knows with all of Keefe’s back and forth with the media, why was he being played over 20 minutes a game chasing 70 goals down the stretch of the regular season? The Leafs were cemented into their playoff positioning and the games meant absolutely nothing. I hope for Keefe’s sake that wasn’t the case at all.
So is this a new injury or indeed a lingering illness?  Needless to say, there seems to be something going on behind the scenes and Keefe and Matthews are right in the middle of it.

Matthews Likely Game-Time Decision for Game 5

The Maple Leafs’ medical team will likely do whatever they can in Boston to get Matthews as close to game-ready as possible, but to this point, he hasn’t been ruled out. When the Maple Leafs come out for warmups will be the tell-tale sign and if there’s no #34 in white, Toronto will have a very tall task ahead of them. He missed one game during the regular season against the Pittsburgh Penguins on December 23, and the Leafs won 7-0, so there’s hope right? That night against Kyle Dubas and company, the likes of Matthew Knies, Max Domi, William Nylander, Mitch Marner and John Tavares all scored and they’ll need much of the same to stand any chance of taking Game 5 in Boston.
Regardless of if Matthews is or isn’t in the lineup, the Maple Leafs need more from just their best player. The likes of Tavares, Marner and Domi need to step up their games in a major way as Tavares and Marner have been non-factors and Domi keeps influencing the games for all the wrong reasons. Entering Game 5, Ilya Lyubushkin has more points than Morgan Rielly, that’s not a recipe for success. And both Calle Jarnkrok and Nick Robertson have yet to register a point in the series, meanwhile, everyone, including myself thought the Leafs had the secondary scoring to get the job done this spring. It looks like the team will turn to Joseph Woll to save their season – let’s see what the Boston College alum has up his sleeve.
Nevertheless, the Maple Leafs could be without their best player for their biggest game of the season and if it comes out that Matthews was dealing with whatever he’s been dealing with to close out the regular season, chasing 70 goals in meaningless hockey games, Keefe mid as well pack his bags once this season is over.

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