SIMMONS: Subsequent on Auston Matthews’ bucket checklist: Playoff greatness

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Breadcrumb Path Hyperlinks Toronto Maple Leafs Auston Matthews of the Toronto Maple Leafs seems for a puck towards the Tampa Bay Lightning throughout Sport 5 of the First Spherical of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Area on Might 10, 2022 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Picture by Claus Andersen /Getty Pictures Article content material TAMPA – Early Thursday, on the morning of this big of an elimination recreation with the Tampa Bay Lightning, Auston Matthews can be introduced as one among three finalists for the Hart Trophy. Which is mainly the award that goes to the perfect participant within the Nationwide Hockey League. Commercial 2 This commercial has not loaded but, however your article continues under. Article content material And this isn’t like final 12 months when he was a finalist with no probability of successful. This time round, he’s in all probability the favorite. He’s thought of by many to be the chosen one this 12 months. And only a few days after scoring the largest purpose of his skilled life, the successful purpose within the frenetic 4-3 come from behind victory by the Maple Leafs in Sport 5, extra can be anticipated of Matthews in a spot the place the problem can be excessive. Article content material Matthews has had a good 5 video games towards Tampa Bay, however not lots that might have an unbiased particular person consider him as the perfect participant in hockey. He’s been superb, simply not explosive. He’s had moments, not complete video games. This could be a large day for him, an enormous evening, a franchise-changing win for a franchise that has provided a lot, promised a lot and delivered so little within the post-season of the Brendan Shanahan years. Commercial 3 This commercial has not loaded but, however your article continues under. Article content material The true change within the Maple Leafs fortunes started after they had been lucky sufficient to get the primary decide within the NHL Draft and are available away with Matthews in 2016. No matter they thought he was going to be then, he’s turned out to be extra. And now this second. The best of gamers reside for these sorts of video games, these reputation-altering nights. What have we seen up to now within the Stanley Cup playoffs? Sidney Crosby has been immense for the Pittsburgh Penguins: If the Conn Smythe Trophy was offered partway via the primary spherical of the playoffs, he’d be the winner. Crosby has three Stanley Cups on his resume, one Stanley Cup defeat, and he seems to be hungry for an additional one in his seventeenth 12 months. We apologize, however this video has did not load. His Nova Scotia counterparts, Nathan MacKinnon in Colorado and Brad Marchand in Boston have had gigantic beginnings to this playoff season additionally. And in Colorado, younger defenceman Cale Makar is the one participant who would problem Crosby for prime participant significance within the early playoffs though the present Connor McDavid placed on in an Edmonton Oilers defeat at house Tuesday evening was one for the ages. Commercial 4 This commercial has not loaded but, however your article continues under. Article content material That is the time the perfect gamers come out and play. The best way Kirill Kaprizov has emerged throughout the season and now within the post-season in Minnesota. The perfect gamers flex their muscular tissues. They do what others can’t do. They take over video games and if they will, they take over collection. That is the Leafs eighth series-clinching recreation of Matthews’ time in Toronto. The scorecard on this isn’t an excellent one: They’re 0-and-7 in potential elimination video games. In these seven video games, Matthews has one purpose and two assists. In 4 of these video games, he had no factors in any respect. Now it’s his flip to seize his piece of the Hart and present it off Thursday evening. At loud and louder Amalie Area, a modern-day Chicago Stadium with out the grunge. The place he’ll doubtless be enjoying towards the defensive wizards Brayden Level and Anthony Cirelli. The place not all the pieces is ready up in his favour. Commercial 5 This commercial has not loaded but, however your article continues under. Article content material Matthews led the NHL in purpose scoring this season and the race, if there was one, wasn’t notably shut. He led the league in photographs on purpose and shot makes an attempt and even-strength objectives and was probably the most harmful scoring weapon the NHL has frankly seen in years. He has three objectives on this collection. That locations him ninth within the post-season, the place he’s tied with 22 others. He’s not first in photographs, he’s fifteenth. He’s not first in even-strength objectives, he ranks twelfth, tied with 34 others. The successful purpose on Tuesday, a fairly wondrous 2-on-1 ending up with Matthews scoring off an Andrei Vasilevskiy rebound, off a Mitch Marner part-shot however largely move. Bang-bang and it was within the internet. That’s what Matthews can do higher than anybody in hockey. The puck virtually flies off his stick. Commercial 6 This commercial has not loaded but, however your article continues under. Article content material Matthews is at a unique place in hockey, nice as his linemate Marner might be, nice as William Nylander might be, good as John Tavares might be. We apologize, however this video has did not load. However that is the place coach Sheldon Keefe divides his roster. He is aware of what he has within the big-bodied Matthews and makes use of him as a lot as he can. Matthews performed virtually 24 minutes in Sport 5, which is big when you think about he doesn’t kill penalties. As nice as Nylander was the opposite evening, the coach performed him virtually seven minutes lower than Matthews. Jon Cooper performed Steven Stamkos seven minutes lower than Matthews as properly. The identical type of allocation is more likely to happen on this potential clinching recreation Thursday night. The final time Tampa Bay trailed 3-2 in a playoff collection, they misplaced Sport 6 and the Stanley Cup to the Chicago Blackhawks in 2015. They’ve performed 13 elimination video games the previous two seasons, successful eight, dropping 4 of them in additional time, and by no means dropping a collection. However by no means trailing in latest occasions the best way they path now. The Leafs had been constructed round Matthews, Marner, and Nylander, first-round picks from three consecutive drafts. The time is now to take one other step. The time is true on this special occasion and evening for Matthews. 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