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“The most important thing is team success” Auston Matthews is focused on bigger things than 70 goals

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Photo credit:John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Alex Hobson
12 days ago
The final two games of the Toronto Maple Leafs’ 2023-24 regular season were disappointing for Leafs fans for more than one reason. Not only did the Leafs concede ten goals in those two games, but star goal-scorer Auston Matthews was held one goal shy of becoming the first player in team history to score 70. There’s a glass-half-full approach to both of these outcomes. First, the Leafs have already clinched third in the Atlantic, and while yes, they did have the opportunity to determine their own fate and play Florida with a win on Tuesday night, there isn’t really a “better” option between the Panthers and the Boston Bruins. Second, finishing with 69 goals on the nose is pretty nice in its own right.
Matthews had 12, yes, 12 shots on goal in the season finale against the Tampa Bay Lightning. It was a pretty badly kept secret that the Leafs were putting an emphasis on trying to get their teammate the puck in these last few games, which likely plays a part in the way they played in those games. There won’t be any sort of goal-scoring records to chase in the playoffs. Instead, they’ll be chasing one thing that the players, coaches, management, and fans alike can all agree takes priority over any individual record – playoff success. Finishing the season with career highs in both goals (69) and points (107), he was asked about his impression of his own season and where his head was at going into the playoffs.
“You know, I wanted it for sure, but it just wasn’t meant to be.” Matthews replied in response to a question about whether he felt disappointed that he couldn’t reach the 70-goal mark. “For myself, we look forward, you turn the page, the most important thing is the team and team success, and making sure that I’m pulling my weight and doing what I can as a leader on this team, and individually, to help the team win, and especially as we go into the postseason. So, that’s where my focus is at, and that’s where my mindset has been all year, as far as getting prepared for the spring here.”
The Leafs struggled mightily against their Round 1 opponent this year, going winless across four games against the Bruins during the regular season. Matthews is aware of this, but stressed the importance of putting it all behind them and recognizing that the playoffs are a completely different beast.
“It’s just a different animal come postseason. Everything that happened in the regular season kinda just gets washed because it’s a new game and a new season in itself. We gotta make sure we’re prepared and take these next couple of days to do our due diligence and make sure we’re good to go for Saturday.”
Although he skated alongside Mitch Marner in these past few games, head coach Sheldon Keefe recently touted the newfound success of the Matthews-Tyler Bertuzzi-Max Domi line as a “real thing”, and something that they will likely adopt in the postseason. Considering the Matthews-Marner duo has been together every year since Keefe took over as head coach, it will be interesting to see how the Leafs fare with a “spread-offence” look in the playoffs and how the Bruins adapt to that.
Matthews and the Leafs will take on the Bruins for Game 1 of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs on Saturday night at 8:00 EST/5:00 PST.

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