Game 2 preview: It’s time for the Auston Matthews Game

Photo credit:Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports
Arun Srinivasan
5 days ago
The balance of a seven-game series swings exponentially and the Toronto Maple Leafs are facing a daunting deficit ahead of their second game against the Boston Bruins upon being skated off the ice in a 5-1 defeat Saturday. This is the most crucial season of the Auston Matthews era, as a top-heavy Maple Leafs team is once again facing a referendum on team-building, to say nothing of their legacy writ large, backed into a corner against a Bruins team that has owned them both pragmatically and psychologically.
Matthews is in line to win his second Hart Trophy in three years. He’s submitted the best goal-scoring output in 31 years and could very well end up as the best player in Maple Leafs history. One of the uglier truths about Toronto’s resident superstar is that he’s yet to author an iconic playoff game, one that rests in title case through team lore. Toronto’s scorching offense doesn’t exist in a vacuum without Matthews, it’s because of No. 34 that the Maple Leafs boast the best 5-on-5 offense in the league. We’d like to avoid the staid cliche, but the Maple Leafs’ backs are against the wall, with William Nylander’s status in question for Game 2.
It’s time for The Auston Matthews Game! Toronto’s marginal advantage over Boston — if it ever existed — has been squandered and now it’s incumbent upon Matthews to light the Bruins up on the road, with support seemingly dwindling. Matthews registered five shots in 20:53 during Game 1 but struggled to generate meaningful possession against Boston’s Hampus Lindholm and Brandon Carlo. Lindholm, one of the best defensive defensemen in the NHL, held Matthews to a 34.3 share of the expected goals in over 10 minutes at 5-on-5 via Natural Stat Trick.
Matthews is a superstar who is clearly dedicated to the idea of becoming the best player in Maple Leafs history, he wanted to be here and insisted he didn’t want to go anywhere else upon signing a four-year extension in August. Along with Nylander and Marner, Matthews changed the trajectory of the franchise and the Maple Leafs have established themselves as an offensive powerhouse through the past eight years. This reputation hasn’t translated to the playoffs. Matthews has registered 44 points in 51 playoff games — he’s not playing poorly, but it hasn’t come close to the transcendent regular season standards he’s set for himself from his inaugural game.
Hit ’em with the four like Auston Matthews. This is less of a preview and more of a plea, particularly as Lindholm and Carlo do their best to push him out of the slot and the faceoff circle, where he does most of his damage. Toronto needs an iconic performance from Matthews tonight, or run the frightening risk of trailing 2-0 against a playoff-proven opponent that swept the season series. It’s time for The Auston Matthews Game!

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