Toronto Maple Leafs: What is wrong with Auston Matthews?

BOSTON, MA - APRIL 14: Auston Matthews
BOSTON, MA - APRIL 14: Auston Matthews /

Auston Matthews is pointless so far in the playoffs, but will he turn it around for the Toronto Maple Leafs in Game 3 against the Boston Bruins?

It was always conceivable the Toronto Maple Leafs would be down 0-2 in their series against the Boston Bruins. However, no one expected them to be so thoroughly dominated.

Through two games, the Leafs have lost by a cumulative total of 12-4. And you can make an argument it hasn’t even been that close, as the Bruins took their foot off the pedal after going up 4-0 in the first period of Game 2.

This complete dominance is best encapsulated by the respective performances of the opposing top lines. While Patrice Bergeron and company have an almost unreal 20 points, the Leafs’ top line has been essentially unproductive.

And Auston Matthews serves as the poster child for this lack of productivity. Through two games, he has zero points and a -2 plus/minus rating, while averaging 17:11 of ice time.

So, what’s the problem with Matthews? Is it just a case of the Bruins having his number?

Consider that the two-time All-Star also went scoreless against Boston in his one regular season appearance against them during the 2017/18 campaign. And to make matters worse, the team was also dominated in that game, losing 4-1 back in February.

Despite this, we don’t believe it is necessarily a scenario where the Bruins have the better of Matthews. After all, he managed five points in four games against them last season when he was a rookie, i.e. when he had less experience.

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One intriguing theory Sportsnet‘s Chris Johnston has is that this season has taken somewhat of a toll on the 2016 first overall draft pick. He’s had to contend with three separate injury absences, while also seeing more playing time as the team’s number one centre.

In fairness to Matthews, it is worth pointing out he is only 20-years-old. Sometimes we forget this, given how he has taken the NHL by storm ever since his historic four-goal debut against the Ottawa Senators.

Besides, things haven’t been quite as bad as they may appear on the surface level.  Matthews’ still played fairly well and worked hard; he just hasn’t been rewarded yet for his tenacity.

In that respect, “yet” is the key word. Go back to last season’s playoff series against the Washington Capitals.

Just like this season, Matthews was scoreless through two games, albeit with the series tied at 1-1. However, he suddenly turned on the switch, as the series moved to Toronto for Game 3.

The 2017 Calder Trophy Memorial winner went on to score four goals and record five overall points through the remaining four games. And even though the Capitals ultimately prevailed, Matthews gave the Presidents’ Trophy winners all they could handle.

If Matthews needs any more motivation, consider these words from his coach. As reported by Johnston, Mike Babcock said last week:

"“You’ve got to do it. If you want to be considered a good, good player, you’ve got to do it at this time of the year. You want to be a winner, that’s what the good players are, they’re winners. They find a way to win. You’ve got to do it when it matters—it matters now. To me, that’s how you separate yourself from the group. If you want to be—you look at (Sidney) Crosby’s resume, you look at Jonathan Toews’s resume, it’s loaded with winning.”"

With this in mind, would you really bet against Matthews turning it on during Monday night? The Leafs have their backs against the wall; expect their young superstar to come out firing at the ACC.

Next: Okay, NOW it's time for the Leafs to panic!

How concerned are you about the Toronto Maple Leafs going into Game 3? Do you expect Matthews to finally score on Monday night? What’s your (revised) prediction for the outcome of the series? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.