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Knee Jerk Reaction: Auston Matthews leaves homecoming with goals #50 and #51

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Photo credit:Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
Alex Hobson
1 month ago
I remember a time when the Toronto Maple Leafs were led in points by a man named Phil Kessel, who finished the year with a modest 30 goals and 55 points in 70 games. 
If you told 11-year-old me that 13 years from then, I’d be watching the Leafs’ number-one centre reach 51 goals, not points, but GOALS, through 54 games, I’d probably assume the Leafs had won at least five Stanley Cups by then.
With or without the Cups, as it’s been written on this site and many others, what the Leafs are getting from Auston Matthews right now is nothing short of historic. I remember when the Leafs originally drafted him, I told one of my buddies that I would be psyched if he turned into an Anze Kopitar type of player with slightly more offence and slightly less defence. Never in a million years did I foresee a scenario where he’d be pushing for the Leafs’ all-time goal-scoring record by the time he turned 27 years old. 
Sometimes, whether you’re a fan of the Leafs or not, it’s important to sit back and appreciate what we’re seeing from Matthews. Not only is he scoring goals at a rate no current player but Alex Ovechkin can compare to, he’s providing Selke-worthy defence at the same time. It’s a unique type of player that this franchise has never seen before, and one who’s going to be talked about fondly for years on end. 
In the shadows of Matthews’ continued run of insanity were his running mate Mitch Marner, who tallied three assists of his own for his fifth-straight multi-assist performance, and Bobby McMann, who scored a goal and added an assist to continue his own hot streak. 
There are two things to take away from a broader perspective. First, the Leafs beat Arizona in the own barn, which is a shocking revelation on its own. Second, it may have taken four months and change, but it looks like Sheldon Keefe has finally found lines he can work with. Putting Tyler Bertuzzi and Max Domi with William Nylander gives the latter a couple of energy bugs who can thrive with a player who carries likewise speed, and John Tavares’ strong IQ and sturdiness up the middle will pair nicely with a couple of players hungry for opportunities. That, and easier competition for Tavares can only be a good thing. 
The Leafs’ win brings them to five in a row for the first time this season, and for the first time, it looks like this team is really gelling together out there. These types of wins and the realization that they were able to do that without their best defenceman in the lineup can only bode well for their confidence heading into a pivotal part of the season.

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