Matthews keeps finding ways to surprise with his shot

Matthews keeps finding ways to surprise with his shot

The Maple Leafs held an optional skate on Monday morning at Scotiabank Arena.

Mitch Marner has seen linemate Auston Matthews do a lot of amazing things, but even he has to shake his head sometimes.

“It’s been remarkable,” Marner said of the consecutive hat tricks Matthews has posted to open the season. “It’s been great just to see him still surprising people with his shot. That side of the net little play that he’s had two on, it’s been great.”

Matthews caught Montreal’s Jake Allen off guard with a 6-on-5 snipe from the side boards in the opening game. He beat Minnesota’s Filip Gustavsson from a similar spot during a 4-on-3 power play on Saturday.

Sheldon Keefe believes the plays are a reflection of how his team wants to attack the net. But, also, part of it is the Matthews magic.

“Good players, they sense that,” the Leafs coach noted. “They see a little daylight there and maybe the goalie is not set and establishing his positioning quick enough, and they get the puck there in those moments.”

“We got set plays we try to do and execute, and so far, two of them have gone in,” Marner revealed. “A little bit of luck but, at the same time, Auston’s got that luck and we’re lucky to have him.”

Matthews is reluctant to share too much about his personal focus, but the 26-year-old centre acknowledges that he is constantly working on his shot and where on the ice to shoot from.

“Just fine-tuning little details,” he said. “Working on different release points, different areas of the ice shooting it. I don’t think you can ever work on it too much. There’s always little things you can add here and there and little adjustments you can make to round everything out.”

Only two of Matthews’ goals have come in 5-on-5 play and neither has been assisted by new linemate Tyler Bertuzzi. But the chemistry is starting to come.

“It’s definitely feeling like it’s been getting better and better each practice and hopefully it continues to trend that way,” Matthews said.

“He is getting more comfortable with those guys,” Keefe noted. “It is just becoming more connected all the way through.”

Bertuzzi picked up his first goal as a Leaf on Saturday although it came on the power play.

“He’s really smart and really solid,” said Matthews. “He’s so good on the forecheck and with his stick and breaking up plays and stripping pucks and that’s a strength of myself and Mitchy’s as well. We like to be on the hunt when we don’t have the puck and trying to get it back and he fits that mould really well.”

The Talking Point: Is 70 goals realistic for Auston Matthews this season?Auston Matthews is off to a scorching start this season with back-to-back hat tricks and showing the entire league that he is to be one of the most feared goal scorers. He’s already reached 60 goals in a single campaign, but is 70 goals realistic for Matthews this season? TSN Hockey analyst Mike Johnson weighs in.

No player in NHL history has produced three straight three-goal games. Is Matthews thinking about that at all?

“Not really,” he said.

Matthews is more worried about defence right now. The Leafs have allowed nine goals in two games and Sunday’s practice focused on returning to the defensive zone and applying pressure immediately in order to facilitate a quick break out.

“We’re a pretty mature group,” said veteran defenceman Mark Giordano. “We know we haven’t played our best, to be honest. I know we’re getting a lot of goals and having fun and being excited, but we haven’t played our best. We haven’t defended our best. We know that and we got to clean a lot of things up so we’re looking forward to doing that tonight.”

Matthews is setting the tone.

“Auston is focused on the big picture here,” Keefe said. “He is looking to really drive our team. He knows his job is to score, but I really don’t think he cares how many goals he gets or what the number is in the end. It is about how many wins we have, how good our team is, what we are building towards and how he can lead us there.”

Leafs Ice Chips: Can Matthews produce a hat trick of hat tricks?There’s a special buzz in Toronto with Connor Bedard set to play his first regular season NHL game against the Maple Leafs but not to be outdone is Auston Matthews’ scorching start to the season and his potential for making history tonight. TSN Maple Leafs reporter Mark Masters has more on what Mitch Marner has seen from his teammate, who has produced consecutive hat tricks.

Connor Bedard is excited to face Matthews for the first time on Monday, but the 18-year-old Blackhawks centre sounds just as pumped to play long-time pal Fraser Minten, who surprisingly cracked the Leafs lineup as a 19-year-old.

“I never expected anything less from him,” Bedard insists. “The way he earned that spot and really showed everyone, I think Leafs fans are already really loving him and it’s pretty cool to see what he’s done.”

The pair came up the ranks of minor hockey together in Vancouver. They actually lived together for a bit this summer in Toronto.

“Right when it was announced he made the team we were fired up kind of talking about how it feels like yesterday we were playing on a line together in bantam,” Bedard said. “It’s crazy how time flies. It’s really special.”

Bedard and Minten crossed paths only briefly on Sunday when the Blackhawks followed the Leafs onto the ice at the Ford Performance Centre.

“I just asked him where they were staying and stuff, but nothing major,” Minten said. “Going to treat it like any other game.”

The stakes are high for Minten, who is looking to prove he should stay the whole season in the NHL. After a nervy opener, he took a step forward on Saturday.

“I saw progress with his overall game against a very big and strong and physical team so that was really good to see,” Keefe said. “And then in practice [Sunday] he took another step again. He seemed to be shooting the puck in the net and having all sorts of confidence with his game offensively. Those are really positive things when you see him continuing to build.”

Minten has produced one shot on goal in each game so far.

Bedard gets set to face Matthews and buddy MintenConnor Bedard admits that he modelled his shot after Auston Matthews and will get to face the sniper on Monday night for the first time. The rookie discusses playing in Toronto, which also means he’ll be facing his good buddy Fraser Minten.

After spending training camp in a hotel, Minten and fellow rookie Matthew Knies have moved in with 33-year-old captain John Tavares, a father of three young sons.

“Ask about breakfast,” Knies suggested when informed Minten would address the media on Monday morning.

“We had some waffles and eggs and bacon this morning,” Minten said with a grin. “It was delicious.”

Any debates over what to watch on television?

“There are a few TVs, so if you don’t like what’s on you can just go to another one,” Minten said. “But everyone likes watching hockey or football, so no fights over that yet.”

Delicious breakfast and lots of TVs: Leafs rookies love living with TavaresMaple Leafs rookies Fraser Minten and Matthew Knies are staying with John Tavares at his home in Toronto as they figure out their housing situations. Minten spoke about the experience living with the Leafs’ captain, and Tavares joked on Sunday about the free babysitting he’s getting from the two youngsters.

On Sunday, Taylor Hall said he felt Bedard was being asked to do too many in-game interviews early in his career. Bedard, for example, did an interview after the first and second periods during his first game in Pittsburgh.

The Leafs, meanwhile, have a rule prohibiting rookies from doing in-game interviews.

“As a young guy you’re just coming in here to play the hockey game,” Marner said. “There is definitely expectations when you’re the first-overall pick … everyone wants to grab you and talk to you, so you can see both sides of it. But at some points you just want to be out there playing the game of hockey you grew up loving. So, I can definitely see both sides.”

Marner met Bedard briefly at the NHL awards in June and thinks the teenager is handling the media attention just fine.

“You guys aren’t easy to please,” Marner noted. “You guys got a lot of expectations for him, as a lot of people do, but he’s done great with seeming like he hasn’t lost himself in it.”

Marner impressed with how Bedard handles hype: ‘You guys aren’t easy to please’With reigning first overall pick Connor Bedard in Toronto to face the Maple Leafs for the first time, Mitch Marner commented on how the highly touted 18-year-old is handling the hype early on in his NHL career.

Bedard studied the Matthews toe-drag-release shot while growing up.

“He definitely mimicked that and would work on that for hours,” Minten recalled. “No accident that it looks similar.”

How similar?

“There’s similarities,” said Tavares, “but he’s his own player and has his own uniqueness to him.”

The Leafs have been quick to point out that Bedard, much like Matthews, is about more than a lethal shot.

“You know the hype, which is well deserved, and a lot of that is focused on his shot,” said Keefe. “But I’d say his game is far more dynamic and complete offensively than I had thought. You think of him as a shooter, but he makes a lot of plays. He drives offence and he’s been doing that in the early going despite being inexperienced.”

“Just so shifty,” Tavares said. “I don’t think he jumps out at you in terms of being an explosive skater, but he’s extremely quick and just so deceptive whether he slows it down or speeds it up … He’s a great playmaker as well. He draws people to him and knows how to create time and space and opportunity, so can just beat you in so many different ways.”

Bedard’s plan to mimic Matthews’ shot is working: ‘No accident it looks similar’Connor Bedard has entered the NHL with a ton of hype surrounding him and, as the Maple Leafs explain, it’s the 18-year-old’s shot that stands out the most among his many star talents. Members of the Leafs spoke about Bedard’s ‘elite’ release and how he’s modelled his shot after Auston Matthews.

Matthews and Bedard are the headliners on Monday night, but William Nylander has the ability to steal the show. He has three goals of his own this season and maybe the nicest one, which came on Saturday night when he beat Selke Trophy contender Joel Eriksson Ek wide and cut to the net.

“World-class stuff,” Keefe said. “The poise to make that move, the presence to bring it across the crease, and the courage to do so is world-class stuff. It was really good to see it. Auston is off to a great start here, but so is Willy.”

Nylander is determined to build on last year’s 40-goal campaign and seems unbothered by any contract-year pressure. Is this a new Nylander?

“His confidence is at an all-time high now,” said Keefe, who also coached Nylander in the American Hockey League. “It’s certainly an improved Willy. Is it new? I think he took really big steps for us last season. He has each season, but it’s gotten to a point now where he’s starting to really separate himself from a lot of others in the league.”

“Will is one of the best players in the world,” said defenceman Morgan Rielly, “especially carrying the puck in the neutral zone, carrying the puck on the perimeter of the offensive zone. He has these skills that are almost unmatched in my opinion, and I think in lots of people’s opinion. His first goal is just a world-class play and then he just rips one on the second one.”

 

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