Simply because Auston Matthews has invited a world class goalkeeper into his quarantine bubble, and simply because the extraordinary sniper has perfected his already sniper between Love island binge-a-thons and Justin Bieber Instagram Lives, does not mean that he asked Frederik Andersen to serve as his personal shooting tutor.
” No. He’s not going into the net, “said Matthews on the phone Thursday from Arizona. “I wouldn’t do that to him. He’s not a street hockey goalie. He likes to play anyway. ”
All of our realities have been turned upside down and inside … well, end of sentence.
It’s just Matthews. “
In the blink of an eye, the Toronto Maple Leafs stud center went from pumping pucks to goaltenders at an astounding pace and a highly acclaimed playoff confrontation with the Tampa Bay Lightning to hibernation at his home in Arizona, where he trains like summer, gorging on relational reality TV and supervising the construction of a backyard sports field.
Depending on the mood, it might seem yesterday or 34 months ago that Matthews (47 goals) jostled with Alex Ovechkin and David Pastrnak (48 each) in an exciting race for the Rocket Richard Trophy destined to overflow in the last weekend of the NHL season. The league may well have crowned the most prolific shooter since Steven Stamkos hooked 60 goalies in 2011-12.
“There are obviously unfinished business, since we have 12 games left, and then there are close contests for playoff spots. There are pretty much unfinished business everywhere, ”said Matthews, taking care to put the sport in perspective.
“It is obviously frustrating and disappointing to see the season come to an end. When you think about all these types of achievements and accomplishments, being really close to scoring 50 goals and stuff like that, I think it all becomes useless when you talk about human lives and what’s going on in the world. “
Matthews – co-leading the NHL with 35 equally strong goals – was almost guaranteed to become the first Leaf since Rick Vaive in 1983-1984 to hit 50. The 22-year-old’s 55-goal pace gave him a fantastic shot as bumping Vaive’s 54 in 1981-82 as the largest goal scoring campaign in franchise history.
“Obviously, your mind wanders when you think about it. Everyone would love to play hockey right now and do their own thing, “said Matthews. “This is what everyone is missing … Everyone wants to get out there and compete and do what they love the most.
“But this thing is bigger than sport. It’s bigger than many things. And I think the most important thing is to be safe and try to stay as healthy as possible. “
To this end, Matthews and Andersen – a ticket / boyfriend he saved from over 40 condos in downtown Toronto – worked and treated the unplanned break as off-season. Matthews lifts weights, slams pucks, practices his stick handling and messes around on the Rollerblades.
“He is a very close friend of mine. Our relationship has grown over the years, “says Matthews of Andersen. “I really like spending time with him.” (Even though Andersen has less patience for the attacker’s Netflix choices.)
When Matthews doesn’t burn Love is blind, he looks at the video of the game and reflects on how a “killer instinct” from the fall of the puck could have prevented the Leafs from their serious inconsistencies this season.
“Make sure we’re all ready,” said the deputy captain. “And I think it should be taken from the leaders to set an example. “
The superstar sums it up when he describes his 2019-20 individual as a season of “growth – and room for growth,” a season that started with an off-season (since settled) legal seed that was born from a night of behavior. unfortunate and has been boosted with adversity on ice throughout.
“It will not only be an upward slope. You’re going to be going through tough times, and I think we’ve had our fair share of adversity throughout the season, “said Matthews. “In the long run, this stuff strengthens teams, builds character and leadership and all that.”
No matter what went on outside the stage, Matthews thrived within those limits. Beyond the sheer number of lights he lit, he had added a nasty timer and an improved talent for rocking the pucks into an arsenal built on a fast and deadly twister.
His defensive play has never been better. He won faceoffs (54.9%), stole pucks (78, tied for first in attack), got ice time (20:58) and drove possession (54.2% Corsi) to best rates in his career, while seeing more difficult clashes.
But best of all, for the first time since his rookie campaign with Calder, Matthews was in good health and “extremely composed” to play the 82.
As a result, the world might not be ready for 82 – and Matthews might not reach 50.
If and when Matthews’s remarkable season resumes and killer instinct is called into play, it’s unlikely that the NHL will allow fans to enter the buildings.
This is a strange scenario to contemplate for a great stage artist who thrives in noise.
“It would be a bit odd, to be honest. I think the fans are such a huge part of the game, not just inside the arena, “said Matthews.
“We have the playoffs going on and we had Maple Leaf Square and everyone there, the atmosphere just goes to a completely different level. “