How Should Bettors React to Injury to Leafs Star Auston Matthews?

Matthew Jordan

Wednesday, October 31, 2018 3:35 PM UTC

Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2018 3:35 PM UTC

One of the NHL’s true superstars, Toronto’s Auston Matthews, is going to miss at least a month injured. Does that mean fade the Leafs more often than not during that time?

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It’s likely that 21-year-old Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews, a rare American to go No. 1 overall in the NHL draft (2016), is going to win a Hart Trophy (league MVP) or Rocket Richard Trophy (league’s top goalscorer) in his career. Maybe multiple of both. He’s that good.

However, neither is likely in the 2018-19 season with the news that Matthews will miss at least a month with a left shoulder injury that at least won’t require surgery. The Leafs play 15 times over the next four weeks. Matthews, the 2016-17 Calder Trophy winner (Toronto’s first since Brit Selby in 1965-66), was hurt in a 3-2 home win over Winnipeg on Oct. 27. Matthews took a legal shoulder-to-shoulder hit from the Jets’ Jacob Trouba.

Some are starting to call Matthews brittle. He missed 20 games last season, including 10 after separating his right shoulder. He said that this injury is similar. Matthews had worked hard over the summer to strengthen his shoulders because of last year’s injury that sidelined him from late February to late March. The Maple Leafs went 11-7-2 without Matthews. He didn’t seem quite right in the playoff loss to Boston with just a goal and an assist in the seven games.

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Leafs With/Without Matthews in 17-18
With Without
38-19-5 Rec 11-7-2
3.45 GF/G 3.15
2.9 GA/G 2.6
38/172 PP 18/52
22.1 PP% 34.6

— Kevin Gibson (@TSNResearch) October 29, 2018
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This is a shame because Matthews and the Leafs both got off to red-hot starts on the NHL betting board. He became the fifth player in league history to record multiple points in each of his team’s first seven. That ended in a 3-0 loss to the Penguins on Oct. 18. Matthews had 10 goals and six assists in 11 games.

SBR’s top-rated sportsbooks haven’t changed the Leafs’ futures odds, nor should they. Toronto remains the +475 favorite at Sports Interaction to end its long Stanley Cup drought and +250 to win the East. Remember, the Leafs added John Tavares to an embarrassment of riches at forward this offseason. Coach Mike Babcock has shifted No. 3 center Nazem Kadri back to a line in between Mitch Marner and Patrick Marleau that had great success the second half of last year.

That said, Toronto’s first full game without Matthews wasn’t pretty as the Leafs lost 3-1 at home to Calgary on Oct. 29. Toronto had just 25 shots. Babcock leaned heavily on his top two healthy centers as Kadri (21:14) and Tavares (21:26) got their season high in ice time. It’s when the third and fourth lines are on the ice that the Leafs are really going to suffer because now you don’t have Kadri on the third. The team’s current No. 3 and 4 centers, Par Lindholm and Frederik Gauthier, are inexperienced.

What this injury might do is give forward William Nylander all the leverage he needs for the Leafs to cave to his contract demands. Alas, the two sides have been far apart and Nylander has yet to play as he waits. If Nylander isn't signed by Dec. 1 then he's not eligible to play at all in the NHL this season. The 22-year-old winger had 20 goals and 41 assists last year.

Where Toronto’s depth really might get tested is starting Nov. 10 in Boston as six of the Leafs’ next seven games beginning that night are on the road – including that always tough California Swing. Then again, Toronto leads the league in road scoring as of this writing and is last in scoring at home.

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