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“He’s world-class” Auston Matthews’ teammates marvel over all-around game after Leafs’ Game 2 win in Boston

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Photo credit:Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports
Alex Hobson
1 month ago
If you watched the Toronto Maple Leafs’ Game 2 effort against the Boston Bruins, you would think Auston Matthews spotted a bat signal in the sky on Tuesday night. After he and the rest of the team took a ton of heat for a listless 5-1 loss in Game 1, Matthews stepped up and made sure the Leafs didn’t go home without a slice of the pie. He wasn’t the only factor in the win, obviously – Ilya Samsonov had an excellent bounce-back game after an underwhelming start on Saturday, and the unit as a whole impressed as they shut down the Bruins in the final five minutes of the game. But, when you watch the highlights following the game, it’s clear that the star centre played the biggest role in the win, both from an offensive and defensive standpoint.
Matthews scored the game-winning goal and set up each of the Leafs’ first two goals of the game to give him three points on the night, also leading the team in time-on-ice (TOI) at 23:24, and hits, tying Ryan Reaves with six. He was all over the ice all night, and as TSN’s Bryan Hayes put it, he was not going to accept a loss. Maple Leafs’ captain John Tavares said
“He’s world-class at everything he does,” Tavares said. “When you see the drive every single day, the passion for the game, and wanting to be such a difference maker night in and night out, and certainly at this time of year, was massive for our group. It puts us back on level terms going back home, so, big win for us, he certainly led the way.”
If you watch the Leafs’ media availability following Tuesday night’s game, you can sense a clear trend in what his teammates and coaches say about Matthews. Everybody knows how impressive his offensive instincts are – it’s not a shock to hear people refer to him as “world-class” in regards to his goal-scoring ability. What earns him that next level of respect is his all-around game, which has rapidly developed over the course of his career. Tavares commented on this, too.
“The goal is one thing, obviously special, not many guys in the world with those instincts and obviously the hands and finishing ability. The competitive aspect, winning battles, fighting for space, using his body, things he does so extremely well and sets the standard for us. So, hell of a game by him.”
Max Domi has found himself a new home alongside Matthews in recent weeks. At first, it was a forced change in the wake of Marner’s high-ankle sprain back in March, but even since Marner’s return, Keefe has continued to use the Matthews/Domi duo. Not only does it allow them to spread out their offence and force the opponent to come up with a defensive plan that entails more than just “shut down Matthews and Marner”, but it’s giving Domi a chance to shine in a top-six role. Matthews got the puck on net to set up Domi’s goal early in the game, and the latter returned the favour in the third period.
“[Matthews] took off, so I threw it up and he did the rest.” Domi said, referencing Matthews’ game-winning goal.
The Bertuzzi-Matthews-Domi line has been excellent to start the series. While nobody outside of the fourth line really had a great game on Saturday night, it was an entirely different story in Game 2. The line provided the Leafs’ two even-strength goals and out-chanced their opponents 10-2 while they were on the ice. Head coach Sheldon Keefe praised the line for their efforts, not just offensively, but on both sides of the puck.
“Auston was all over the stat sheet tonight, and in so many regards he’s affecting the game, positively, for us.” Keefe said. “But, to me, just the way he worked, the way he competed, he was hard, physical, winning puck battles all over the ice. I’d say the same about Bert and Domi.”
While Marner has been silenced offensively so far, Matthews has made a solid stride in shedding the narrative that the stars don’t show up in playoff games. He’s going to continue to be under the spotlight so long as the Leafs are in this series, but if he can bring more of what he did in Game 2 and less of what happened in Game 1, the Leafs are going to be well-positioned to at bare minimum keep this a tight series between the two teams.

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