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Bluelines: The Overlooked Side of Auston Matthews

Stan Fischler talks about the play of Auston Matthews, his thoughts on the Coloado Avalanche, his pick for the Calder Trophy, Evgeni Malkin, the strength of the USHL and much more.
Auston Matthews

The arresting side of Auston Matthews is not that he's become a scoring machine without a brake handle.

Easily, the answer has to do with why the idea of moving the Coyotes out of Arizona belongs in the Shud-dup Basket.

Face it, folks in Toronto and all points north; if it wasn't for the Yotes, Sir Auston would be playing for the Arizona Diamondbacks,

"Baseball was Auston's first-favorite sport," Brian Matthews, Auston's father revealed.

But when Auston didn't know a Maple Leaf from Maple Syrup, Pop Matthews took his lad to a Coyotes game.

According to one news source, "Auston was captivated by the Zamboni machine," which was reason enough for a return visit and more Coyotes games.

And that has to be reason enough for Bettman, Inc. to wait a couple of years for a new Coyotes home to rise in Phoenix's cousin city of Tempe. Meanwhile, Arizona State's compact new arena will serve as the Coyotes' home pond.

While Auston, the adult, is bringing endless happiness to Toronto fans, the fact remains that he learned -- and came to love -- his hockey not in Ontario but one of the hottest states in the Union.

And not in the Toronto Hockey League but with the Arizona Bobcats. When the son of Ema Matthews -- a native of Hermosillo, Mexico -- watched the Coyotes host Washington, Lil' Auston found a hero.

"Alex Ovechkin scored a spectacular goal on his back," according to one report, "and Ovie became Auston's first hero."

Mind you, all of this hockey development was taking place in the Copper (or Grand Canyon) State; otherwise known as Arizona; which is as far from Scotiabank Arena as the Cocos Islands.

Not that Torontonians -- nor any other citizen of Maple Leaf Land -- owes anything to the Coyotes, the Arizona Bobcats nor the Copper State for that matter.

Rather it gives me a sense or pride when I watch the likes of Matthews and Florida- born and hockey-bred Jakob Chychrun excel in the NHL

It gives me a special kick when those Sun Belters do as well as the skaters from South Porcupine, Ontario, Flin Flon, Manitoba and Prince Albert, Saskatchewan where the ice forms in October and melts just about now!

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EVERYTHING TO LOVE ABOUT MATTHEWS -- EXCEPT ONE!

The Auston Matthews Adjective Silo is fast running out of "greatest" grains. The Calder and Richard Trophy-winner is breaking records left and right.

My Toronto buddy, Michael Augello calls Austy "one of the NHL's greatest players." But does that mean pre-Expansion; or all-time?

For my money, it doesn't really matter. And if that doesn't matter, you have the inalienable right to demand what actually does?

But I'll let Augello handle that:

"Matthews' individual glory has been impressive and something that the century-old franchise has seen infrequently. But it will be seen as next to meaningless unless the first overall pick leads Toronto to its first playoff series victory in 18 years.

"The Leafs are in position to have home ice advantage in the first round against either Tampa Bay or Boston But the double-Cup chaps could be the toughest potential first-round match-up. Plus, Boston has eliminated Toronto three times in Game Seven of the first round in the last decade."

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I'M JUST SAYIN':

* Right now, Colorado simply is scary-scary good. You have to wonder if their hot-stuff play can extend into the postseason.

* The best-kept secret in the west is LA's Swedish left wing, Adrian Kempe. At last look he had 33 goals!

* All hail Jerry York who's retiring as the winningest coach in NCAA Division I history.

* Denver's 3-2 NCAA semi-final win over top-seeded Michigan was a stunner considering all the ink splashed about the Wolverines' future NHLers all year.

* Could be that the overflow of attention directed at Owen Power and Matt Beniers, among others, went to their heads instead of goal sticks.

* Transparency Department: I was rooting for Minny State. Denver's hockey teams have had enough wins for a season.

* Every time I see a player named Mazur, I wonder if he is in any way related to Eddie (Spider) Mazur of the early 1950's Canadiens.

* In this case it's Carter Mazur of the Denver champs.

* If I'm Ron Francis, I'd give a lot of Kraken thinking about whether Phil Grubauer and Chris Driedger should be the one-two goalie combination in Seattle next season.

* I commend Anaheim rookie g.m. Pat Verbeek for retaining Dallas Eakins as Ducks head coach.

* Prior to the Christmas break, Eakins had his club playing at a 17-9-6 playoff pace. Then along came Covid to ruin what looked like a winning year.

* Kudos to Chris Kreider for hitting the 50-goal mark. The Boxford, Massachusetts product ranks among the all-time U.S.-born sharpshooters. And he's just getting into his groove.

* A large YAY to Johnny Gaudreau, the pride of Salem, New Jersey, for hitting the 100-point mark Staning a mere 5-9, 165, Goody sure is making a point for the non-six-foot gang.

* My Calder choice is Trevor Zegras for -- among other good things -- continuing to keep The Michigan in big-league hockey.

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WHO SAID IT? "It's almost an illegal weapon." (Answer Below.)

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MUSING ABOUT MALKIN'S MISFORTUNE

His four-game suspension should give Geno Malkin enough pause to wonder what in Heaven's name caused him to go bonkers on Nashville's Mark Borowiecki.

Like all exceptional players -- his captain included -- Malkin should

expect attention but not go nuts over it with a messy cross-check to Mark's proboscis.

Whether Geno is one of the league's "dirtiest players," as the Post's Larry Brooks asserted, is debatable. For sure, he'll never win the Lady Byng Trophy for his Paul Bunyan imitation.

What's reassuring is that the NHL was dissatisfied with the on-ice four-minute penalty. Player Safety took on the case and the four-game penance was fully justified.

Meanwhile, Evgeny is gifted with a pre-playoff vacatIon. My guess is that it's even money he learned a lesson.

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THE BEST, LEAST-PUBLICIZED NHL LINE

While Carolina continues its mastery of the East, the Hurricanes' top line is overshadowed by the McDavid unit in Edmonton and the Matthews trio of Toronto.

Yet, the Raleigh line is hard to beat. It includes Sibby Aho, Andre Svechnikov and rookie Seth Jarvis. Sibby and Andre have proven their worth but Jarvis arrived at right wing to provide the perfect balance to the line.

The Hockey News' Ryan Kennedy wisely picked Winnipeg native Jarvis as Carolina's "Top Prospect" for the current season in THN's Annual. Ryan could not have been more right.

Credit Portland Winterhawks GM-coach Mike Johnston for honing Jarvis' skills to sharpness in Oregon. Carolina's Don Waddell smartly drafted Seth 13th overall in 2020. Good job, Mike; swell playing, Seth. His forehand-backhand goal against the Rangers Iggie Shesterkin last Tuesday night was a swifty gem.

THN's Kennedy put it well about Jarvis' assets:"Topnotch hockey instincts keep him in the right place at the right time."

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UNITED STATES HOCKEY LEAGUE COMING ON STRONG

Major Junior Hockey in America never has been better in every way, shape and form. One very good reason for that is the USHL under the baton of President and Commissioner Bill Robertson.

USHL alumni finished the NCAA season with a Hobey Baker-winner, 18 All-Americans and 12 champions. Heading the pack is Baker-winner Dryden McKay. The Minnesota State goalie had cut his ice teeth with the Madison Capitols and Green Bay Gamblers.

Fellow USHL alumni forward Bobby Brink (Sioux City Musketeers, USA Hockey NTDP) was one of the two hat trick finalists. The other was Minnesota forward Ben Meyers, formerly with the Fargo Force.

McKay is the 15th Baker Award-winner via the USHL and third in a row.

Cole Caufield and Scott Perunovich were the two previous Baker winners, making it three for three for the USHL.

ANSWER TO WHO SAID IT? Islanders goalie Glenn (Chico) Resch describing an Al MacInnis slap shot.

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