The searing spotlight of the playoffs are here and one of the most high-profile series of the first round is a rematch. Last year, the Boston Bruins knocked out the Toronto Maple Leafs in a wild series that featured huge momentum changes and a lot of action. And while the B’s got the ‘W’ in 2018, the Leafs aren’t shying away from their rival for the redux.
Playoff success has eluded the Maple Leafs so far in the Brendan Shanahan era and Boston will be a very difficult opponent. If Toronto is going to succeed, the best players must rise to the occasion and that includes star center Auston Matthews.
After hitting a new career-high in goals (37) and points (73), despite missing 14 games due to injury, Matthews is looking forward to his third straight playoff berth.
“Everyone on this team worked all season for this opportunity,” he said. “We'll take it one game at a time, one period at a time, one shift at a time – looking to improve on the next from the previous. I wish we were starting Wednesday. We want to bring the Cup home to Toronto.”
It has been a pretty exciting season in Toronto already, with the hype starting back in the summer when marquee free agent and hometown boy John Tavares chose the Maple Leafs as his new franchise. Tavares, Matthews, Mitch Marner and Morgan Rielly drove the bus offensively for the squad and as Matthews completes his third NHL season, he contemplated the growth he experienced as a 21-year-old.
“It’s just trying to get better every day, every game, every shift. “You have to strive to get better in everything – not just hockey. There's always something you can get better at.”
To that end, Matthews has been extending his interests off the ice recently, too. Of course there was the fashion shoots he did for magazines in the summer, but there’s also a new project he has launched with tech giant Apple, which saw him as the filmmaker of a short starring his good buddy Marner (check it out below), all shot by Matthews by iPhone.
“The whole concept was really intriguing to me,” Matthews said. “The chance to do something different, that was more personal and authentic, was quite interesting. It wasn’t about being in front of the camera or on the ice; it was about being creative and trusting your instincts in something entirely different. I use my iPhone all the time – so this just felt right. It was exciting to have a company approach me and encourage me to be myself, in my life, with my friend and teammate – unfiltered, unscripted. I’ve had a great relationship with Apple and so this was an especially exciting opportunity to do something new for them and for me.”
The fact he got to do it with Marner was also pretty apt. Not only is the duo crucial to Toronto’s success both now and in the immediate future, but the two youngsters share a close bond off the ice.
“He was an absolute blast to do this with,” Matthews said. “We wanted to give fans something cool to watch that they could relate to. We have a great time as roommates on the road and have built a great relationship. Hopefully you see that in this film.”
And his partner in crime concurs.
“Auston and I are teammates but more importantly, good friends,” Marner said. “We had a lot of fun making this shot-on-iPhone film. I’m excited to give fans a look at our lives off the ice.”
When you watch Matthews on the ice, you see a player who thinks the game at a higher level than most. He sees scoring opportunities that others don’t and he has the talent to execute those plays. Perhaps that extends to his other interests, too. It certainly seems to be the case with his Apple movie.
“The vision was to be real, to be ourselves,” he said. “We all shoot video and photos on our iPhones all the time. I hope that maybe fans see a more personal side of me, but also I hope it inspires them to shoot their own videos with their friends.”