When Bruce Boudreau rolled into Toronto on a game day one week ago today, he was unaware that his opponent’s most dangerous weapon, Auston Matthews, would be sidelined for the first time in his young, dissected NHL career. To a sage rink rat like the Minnesota head coach, however, it made no difference — and would, ultimately, provide no relief against a Maple Leafs squad victorious in regulation. “They’ve got a lot of great players, not just Auston Matthews” Boudreau said. “If he’s out of the lineup, I guarantee one of the guys who doesn’t get all the attention when he’s in the lineup will get the attention.” The hockey lifer has seen this scenario play out before. Injury begets opportunity. One man’s irritation is another man’s ice time. “It’s always frustrating to miss games. Just watching them sucks,” Matthews said Wednesday, following his first full team practice in 10 days. He’s still the Maple Leafs’ top goal- and point-getter after cautiously nursing an upper-body ailment that turned him into a coach potato while his pals went a perfect 3-0 in his absence. “You want to be out there.” Want? Sure. But sometimes, you get what you need. The Leafs had outscored starter Frederik Andersen’s bouts with inconsistency through the bulk of October, but it was Andersen who stole that Wild game for his club with a 35-save performance the excellent Devan Dubnyk just couldn’t match.
Leafs finding upside in playing without Auston Matthews
Sportsnet | Nov 15