Toronto Maple Leafs Go for Last Wild Card Spot: Rookie Sensation Auston Matthews Leads the Charge

Auston Matthews has taken the Leafs from worst to playoff contender. At fourth in the NHL in goals, Matthews has his team in prime position.

Auston Matthews has taken the Leafs from worst to playoff contender. At fourth in the NHL in goals, Matthews has his team in prime position.

Brandon Gardner

   The Maple Leafs hosted the Montreal Canadiens last Saturday night. The Canadiens won the contest 3-2 with an overtime goal scored by ex-Blackhawk forward Andrew Shaw. The defeat would be the second overtime loss that week for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Despite the loss, rookie star Auston Matthews reached a 30-goal landmark after tallying the only two goals that night.  

   Matthews leads the Maple Leafs with 54 points, which also sets him up as the 15th leading scorer in the NHL. It’s not surprising that Matthews would have an astonishing rookie season after his NHL debut where he scored four goals, setting a new record. Matthews’ scoring ability has helped the Maple Leafs reach the 14th rank in the NHL, a position the Leafs have not reached since the last NHL lockout.

   Despite being the third largest franchise in the NHL, Toronto has not had a winning season since the lockout in 2012-2013 season when the season was reduced to 48 games. Since then, Toronto has landed themselves among the bottom few teams in the league. In 2013-2014, they were just seven spots above last place, and the following season they won 30 games, which earned them the 26th spot in the league. Just last year Toronto finished in last place with only 29 wins.

This season has been a different story, and much of it has to do with the rookie sensation Auston Matthews. With his help, the team has already earned 69 points during the regular season, already better than how they finished in two of the past four seasons. He has been performing far better than what was expected of him this year.

   When a reporter asked about Matthews reaching 30 goals last Saturday, the Maple Leafs coach, Mike Babcock, commented on Matthew’s ability to be a leader.

   “That’s what I like about him, he helps you win because he plays right. He’s getting better every day and, you know, he’s going to be our number one center, if he isn’t already in no time. He’ll be the guy driving our franchise,” Babcock said.

   Matthews’ outstanding performance this season has helped allow the Leafs to be a competitive team once again. For the first time in three seasons, Toronto has a solid chance of earning a playoff spot, and competing for the greatest trophy in sports. The Toronto Maple Leafs are an original six team along with the Boston Bruins, Montreal Canadians, Chicago Blackhawks, New York Rangers and Detroit Red Wings and they have historically been a competitive franchise with the second most Stanley Cups in the NHL.

   The Maple Leafs are on the come up. Much like the Edmonton Oilers, they have a new active leader on the team who in the future will help Toronto win games. With arguably the best coach in the league seasoning Matthews, he is sure to be a high impact player with the potential to turn the Leafs into a

winning team.   

   The next challenge for the Leafs will be Thursday, March 2 when they travel to Los Angeles to take on the Kings at the Staples Center. Winning on the road in the NHL is never easy, although the Kings have had a disappointing year.