Toronto Maple Leafs: Auston Matthews getting hot again at perfect time

Auston Matthews is delivering for the Toronto Maple Leafs when they need him the most.

We’re about to enter the most important stretch of the 2020-21 NHL regular season, and the Toronto Maple Leafs are tightening their grip on the North Division thanks to some stellar goaltending from Jack Campbell and some clutch moments from their biggest stars, including Auston Matthews.

It has come at just the perfect time too with the Maple Leafs hoping to win the North and put themselves in the best possible position heading into the postseason, and this team will need their big hitters to be hot come Playoffs time.

Therefore, it is incredibly encouraging that Matthews is starting to hit his stride again after the elite center hit somewhat of a slump in March, scoring just three goals in nine games after missing a couple of games due to a nagging wrist injury, which clearly impacted his ability to execute his trademark and deadly release.

Matthews’ struggles clearly impacted the Leafs who need their offensive juggernauts to fire on all cylinders if they are to succeed, although it has probably helped that Toronto is stuck in the North Division which isn’t as competitive as other divisions this season.

But, time can be a great healer and that has proved the case for Matthews who is showing signs of getting back to the goalscoring machine that scored 18 goals in 18 games to start the 2020-21 season, and that kind of production would ensure that the Maple Leafs finish strong down the stretch and enter the Stanley Cup Playoffs riding plenty of momentum.

Auston Matthews (34)

Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews (34). Mandatory Credit: James Carey Lauder-USA TODAY Sports

Auston Matthews reaching peak of his powers once more at just the right time

With the wrist injury now seemingly dealt with, Matthews is starting to hit his stride once more and that has led to the Leafs going 7-2-1 in their last 10, winning four consecutive games and putting in some pretty impressive results against the Winnipeg Jets in the process.

They’ve also handled their business against struggling teams like the Calgary Flames, and Matthews has been central to that with seven points (5 G, 2 A) in his last five outings, including a two-goal night against the Flames on Monday.

He now has 46 points on the season and his 27 goals in 36 games leads the National Hockey League, putting Matthews on course for his first Rocket Richard Trophy and he could also be a finalist for the Hart Trophy given how important he has been to the Toronto Maple Leafs so far this year, and that’s really coming into focus now.

After all, the Leafs had failed to score a power play goal in 11 consecutive games prior to Monday night, going 0-for-29 which just isn’t going to get the job done, but Auston Matthews did what all stars do by coming up clutch and putting an end to his team’s special teams misery by buying a rebound in close.

Matthews also proved that his wrist troubles are behind him as he showcased that wicked release in the same game against Calgary, picking up a pass from William Nylander before firing one hell of a wrister past Jacob Markstrom. Why anyone would give Matthews that much time to shoot the puck is beyond me at this point.

Go back just a few days before to March 31 when Matthews absolutely put this Leafs team on his back and powered them past the Winnipeg Jets, who are trying to keep pace in second place in the North Division. The 23-year-old had a goal and an assist in that game, both coming in the first period, but his all-round play was just dominant as he used his 6-foot-3 and 223 pound frame to make plays, break up plays and he just made the difference.

This is exactly the Auston Matthews the Toronto Maple Leafs will want and, more importantly, will need in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and the fact that the uber-talented, generational game-changer is clicking into high gear again and making things happen at will is only good news for the North Division’s best team, a team that looks poised to finally end their postseason nightmare this year and embark on a deep run. And they will need Auston Matthews to be at the peak of his powers in order for that to happen.