Matthews returns ready to win
Leafs breakout star excited for Year 2 outlook
Auston Matthews walked off the ninth green at Rattlesnake Point Golf Club having come up short on a 20-foot putt.
Always the competitor, Matthews was happy when one from his foursome finally sunk the putt in the team best-ball format.
“Want to win,” Matthews said, walking toward a group of reporters waiting for him. “Playing with some real ringers here. We got a good team. Haven’t been using many of my shots. It’s been nice.”
Sure, this was only fun, an annual fundraiser for the Maple Leafs’ foundation, with proceeds headed to a multipurpose sports facility on Jarvis Street.
And don’t worry that golf is not Matthews’ thing. He will certainly soon be back to carrying his weight, if not more, when the Leafs open training camp Thursday.
“It’s a pretty motivated group,” Matthews said. “Individually and as a group, everybody wants to continue to grow. We’re all excited.”
The excitement around this team is palpable, thanks in large part to Matthews, who was as good as advertised as the top overall pick in the 2016 draft. Leafs jerseys are worn with pride again around the city and province.
A team that not long ago was the butt of jokes across a hockey-loving nation is now, if you believe Las Vegas odds-makers, listed at 14-to-1 to win the Stanley Cup. Only Pittsburgh (7-to1), Edmonton (9-to-1), Dallas and Chicago (12-to-1) have been given better odds by the folks who put their money where their mouths are.
The reason is the huge strides the team took on its way to its first playoff series since 2013, and its second post-season appearance since 2004. And they did it fuelled by Matthews’ Calder Trophy-capped rookie season.
“I don’t think about that kind of stuff, really,” Matthews said. “I know (reporters) like to talk about it. But individual stuff never really crosses my mind.”
The rediscovered pride around the Leafs might only be tenuous if the team takes a step backward. No one is expecting or predicting that. But the playoffs are not a given. And if such a thing as a sophomore jinx exists, it could hurt the Leafs in a big way. Matthews didn’t sound like he believes in jinxes or slumps.
“It’s hockey, you go out there and play,” he said. “Obviously in the league there are always adjustments . . . But everybody looks good. Everybody is fired up to get the season going.”
we have a good team. now everybody knows the kind of firepower we have. it’s not going to be easy. Auston Matthews
Maple Leafs forward Auston Matthews at RattleSnake Point Golf Club in Milton on Monday.