Maple Leafs report cards: Auston Matthews can’t steer team away from Arizona trap by himself

What began as a whisper coming into the game eventually grew louder shift after shift, until it began to feel like an inevitability: Given that the Arizona Coyotes find themselves in the bottom of the standings and the Maple Leafs found themselves on the second night of a back-to-back on the road, this contest had all the makings of a trap game for the Leafs.

And sure enough, though the Leafs played well, pressed for offence and outshot the Coyotes 46 to 18 (!), the Coyotes sat back, absorbed pressure, got a few ugly goals and made for what was undoubtedly a painful and late viewing experience at times for Leafs fans.

Coyotes goalie Karel Vejmelka might have been playing in just his 20th NHL game, but he was the difference, stifling the Leafs period after period.

The 2-1 loss Wednesday was just the Leafs’ fifth regulation loss in their last 28 games, so there’s no need to panic.

But don’t tell that to Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe:

First star

Auston Matthews

To the surprise of no one, Matthews did everything in his power to put the Leafs on his back and create chance after chance while playing in front of family and friends in Arizona. His 23:24 TOI was second only to Morgan Rielly. He was by far the most consistently dangerous Leaf, and one of the few who looked capable of beating Vejmelka.

Matthews’ puck control under pressure was yet another reminder of his all-world skill set.


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