Skip to main content

Auston Matthews has found his groove again and the team's core are delivering on the offense that has become expected of the Toronto Maple Leafs

The league leader in goals last season found the back of the net twice in a 5-2 win against the Boston Bruins at Scotiabank Arena on Saturday Night.

John Tavares also scored twice, while Mitch Marner added an empty-net goal as part of a four-point night.

William Nylander and the above-mentioned players have scored the team's last 13 goals and that has helped propel the Maple Leafs to a season-high five-game winning streak.

"We need those guys to produce and they have been here," Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe said. "Obviously, no coincidence that we've started to roll as a team since that's happened."

It's quite the change a team that was struggling to find the back of the net last month. The Maple Leafs dropped four straight games from Oct. 18-25 and their confidence had been at its lowest after they fell behind 2-0 in the first period of their game against the lowly Chicago Blackhawks.

"The highs can get real high here and the lows can get real low," Matthews said with a smile. "Sometimes you got to step back and take a breath.”

The team found their way out of that game to start the winning streak they are currently on. 

By his own admission, Matthews struggled to find his game after recovering from off-season wrist surgery. Although he did score his first goal of the season in a 4-1 loss against the Carolina Hurricanes on Oct. 25, it's the recent three-game stretch that has seen the center produce like his old self.

Matthews has recorded two points in each of those three games (four goals, two assists).

"Every time he's been through injury, the way he kind of improves his game, the way he works on things, sometimes that's just part of the evolution," Tavares said of Matthews.

Despite that loss to Carolina, Keefe is insistent that there were positive signs in that game that helped the team push out of the winning streak.

But there have been two main reasons.

1. Jack Campbell continues perform well in goal. He improved to 6-2-1 this season and has a .936 save percentage. 

2. The Leafs' core is scoring.

Both of Matthews' goals came on the power-play, the first time the team has scored twice with the man advantage since a 3-2 loss to Ottawa on Oct. 14.

The Maple Leafs have power-play goals in four consecutive games and although some members of the team insist that they haven't changed much in their approach, there is some nuance that has helped them break through their slump.

"We're able to break it down a little bit and makes these kind of seem plays and pretty plays where we can open up the penalty kill a little bit," Matthews said.

After struggling with his confidence in the early going, Marner has busted out to a season-high five-game point streak (three goals and eight assists).

Tavares is also on a five-game point streak (five goals, four assists) and he overtook Nylander for the team lead in goals (six) with his two-goal effort on Saturday.

"He's looked as good as I've ever seen him look," Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly said of Tavares.

Nylander hasn't produced with at the same offensive clip as the other three forwards lately, but he did score the overtime winner against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday and he was arguably the best skater on the team in October.

The Maple Leafs have talked a lot about the team's identity and how it's been tied to scoring. Now they are doing that.  For a team that looked like it was on the brink of melting down, that first intermission speech where Nylander said the message was to "stop feeling sorry for ourselves" may have indeed flipped the right switch.

"I think the biggest thing is we've just shown belief, you know, to just stay with it," Keefe said.

TOP HEADLINES

Luke Prokop
Play

Luke Prokop Q&A: the Before and After of Coming Out as Gay

Edmonton Oil Kings blueliner Prokop, the first player under NHL contract to come out, caught up with the Hockey News to chronicle how his life has changed since he shared his story with the world.

USATSI_17435930
Play

Who to Start and Who to Sit in Fantasy Hockey (Week of Jan. 17)

The NHL schedule is finally starting to get back to normal, and it's a good time to get your fantasy team back on track. Jason Chen explains why you should explore New Jersey, Buffalo and Florida this week.

USATSI_17502266
Play

Fischler Report: Why the New York Rangers Need a Captain

The Rangers have all the ingredients for a Stanley Cup team, except one key piece. Stan Fischler looks at that, continues his chat with Doc Emrick, shares more thoughts on the NHL on TV and more.