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Sunday FTB: Leafs clinch the playoffs, Matthews chases history

Maple Leafs management will also meet with Matthew Knies soon.

Montreal Canadiens v Toronto Maple Leafs Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images

Saturday night was a good night for the Toronto Maple Leafs for multiple important reasons.

First, Auston Matthews was honoured at the start of the game for setting the franchise record for most goals in a single season. He beat the record previously held by Rick Vaive, who attended the game as part of the celebration for Auston taking it from him. Auston was also given a standing ovation before the game started.

The next great thing was Auston Matthews immediately scoring two goals in the first period to reach another milestone: scoring 50 goals (51 technically) in 50 games, something very few players in the NHL’s history have accomplished — and before you mentioned it in the comments, no I don’t give a shit that the NHL only considers an official “50 in 50” to be from the start of the season, as if that isn’t completely arbitrary.

It’s just another feather in Matthews’ cap in this legendary season he’s building. He’s almost assuredly going to hit 60 goals before season’s end (as well as 100 points) which would be only the third time in the cap era a player has hit that mark. Alex Ovechkin had 65 in 2007/08, and Steven Stamkos had 60 on the dot in 2011/12.

So now it’s a question of how many will Matthews’ score by the end of the season? If he keeps up his goal-a-game pace from the last 50 games, he’ll wind up with around 68 — beating Ovechkin’s “cap era” record. But imagine he goes Plus Ultra and winds up with 70? Oh you know people will be mad about that, not least because it will be very difficult for him not to win the Hart at that point.

And to wrap up the night, the Toronto Maple Leafs finished the game on a Saturday Night, on Hockey Night in Canada, beating their divisional rival the Montreal Canadiens 3-2. And with the win, they both reached 100 points on the season, and they clinched a playoff spot. They’re 5 points up on Boston and 6 points on Tampa Bay, both who have one game in hand. At this point you can almost write the Leafs into the second seed in the division in pen.

What a wonderful season it’s been for Auston Matthews, and for the Leafs as a whole.

By the way, has anyone else’s chest start tightening a bit the closer we get to the playoffs? No? Just me? Okay, I should probably get that checked out.

LEAFS LINKS

Let’s start with the #MattKniesWatch. His NCAA season came to end on Friday, and so we’re now all waiting to hear if he will decide to return to Minnesota for one more season, or sign an ELC with Toronto to turn pro this season. The last few rumours and statements we’ve heard have all been saying it seems like Knies will return to the NCAA for one more season.

Earlier yesterday, Dreger said this:

During the second intermission of the Leafs-Habs game, Friedman talked about it as well. He said the Leafs will meet with him sometime in the next few days. I’m going to quote all of the segment (or you can watch it here) instead of trying to paraphrase:

“He’s ready, and they would like to have him. Here’s the issue: he’s got unfinished business. His team, Minnesota (he actually said Michigan but that is NOT his team, Elliotte) was knocked out in the semi finals of the Frozen Four. They’ve got a good team coming back next year and also adding, potentially, Logan Cooley — one of the top picks eligible for this year’s draft. So I think the biggest thing is: does Knies want to go back next year to try and win a national championship? That’s what Toronto is up against. I don’t think this is a situation at all where the Maple Leafs are worried they can’t sign him long-term.”

Notice there’s a lot of Friedman saying “I think”. I’d say at this point no one can really say what Knies will decide — hell, Knies himself may not know what he will decide until he meets with the Leafs. But the expectation is we’ll find out soon after, probably as early as tomorrow or Monday. That is a similar timeline that Abruzzese took before he signed.

Speaking of Leafs’ prospects, Braeden Kressler returned to OHL action after a long recovery from a UCL injury.

Black Girl Hockey Club prepares to make their mark in Toronto | by Marsha Joseph

This weekend is jam packed with exciting things for many BIPOC fans and BGHC volunteers to take part in. Four of the five events this week were coordinated by MLSE. While a lot of these events are closed, Leafs fans still have the opportunity to come out to a meetup in Maple Leafs Square before the game against Buffalo on April 12.

Philippe Myers excited for opportunity to play important hockey with the Marlies | by TLN

A nice scouting report on the Leafs’ latest NCAA signing, NOT Abruzzese or Knies: Maple Leafs sign Max Ellis to entry-level deal: The 411 on the new Leaf prospect | by MLHS

An update on Carter Hutton, who was seen practicing in Toronto yesterday.

Oh yeah, we can add another franchise record Matthews has broken...

MISCELLANEOUS LINKS

A former NHLer’s bravery and sacrifice on the ground in Ukraine | by Sportsnet

Burnside: Forecasting the future for 12 NHL coaches in flux | by Daily Faceoff

Isles’ Cizikas suspended one game for boarding | by TSN

There goes Zegras Skilling It Up again...

You may be wondering that happened when Barry Trotz realised his team couldn’t prevent the Leafs from clinching a playoff spot... wonder no more.

Biking in Toronto is dangerous at times. Can you imagine doing it in Vegas? Our best wishes.