Matthews re­turns ready to win

Leafs break­out star ex­cited for Year 2 out­look

Metro Canada (Toronto) - - SPORT -

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

An­drew FrAn­cis wAl­lAce/torstAr news ser­vice

Maple Leafs for­ward Aus­ton Matthews at Rat­tleSnake Point Golf Club in Mil­ton on Mon­day.

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