Not even a sniper’s stick.
Hence the decision by Auston Matthews to switch up his most important piece of equipment on Monday night, swapping out the Bauer model he’s been loyal to throughout his three-year NHL career for one from Warrior.
The Toronto Maple Leafs star made good use of his new tool, beating Tuukka Rask with a quick release for his first goal in these playoffs during a 3-2 victory over the Boston Bruins.
“I guess I’ll have to keep using it,” Matthews told Sportsnet on Tuesday.
The performance of a stick is paramount for an elite shooter like Matthews, who has scored 117 times in 228 career games. He indicated he was looking for a little different feel after being held without a goal for the final four regular-season games and the first two of the playoffs.
It’s not an insignificant change.
Matthews has a unique release and fires the puck with pinpoint accuracy. He’s fond of a whippy 80 flex and the Joe Sakic curve, and hasn’t been known to tinker much since scoring four goals in his NHL debut.
“I’ve found a pretty comfortable one and I really like it,” he said in a 2017 Sportsnet feature on his stick.
The goal Matthews scored midway through Monday’s game came on his 11th shot and 23rd attempt of the first-round series. Heading into Game 4 on Wednesday, he leads the Leafs in scoring chances (17) and attempts (25), and sits second in shots on goal (12) and third in expected goals (1.14).
There are very few Grade-A looks available at this time of year, especially in the areas where Matthews does most of his damage: The bottom of the left circle or off the rush.
“You want to obviously score and create and produce,” he said. “If you’re getting shots and opportunities from the slot and they’re not going in you’ve just got to keep shooting and stay patient.”
The 21-year-old centre drew praise from head coach Mike Babcock after the Leafs took a 2-1 series lead. He could have had more than one goal in Game 3.
“He didn’t turn over the puck, looked after it and then was rewarded,” said Babcock. “He’s a proud guy who wants to be good every night and wants to score, loves to score.”
Matthews was held to one goal in last year’s seven-game playoff loss to Boston despite producing the most shots in the series. It was a frustrating stretch. This time Babcock sensed a little more calm when he was held off the scoresheet through two games in Boston.
“I don’t think he was feeling the pressure,” said Babcock. “You’re a year older, you’ve been around, you look around the league and you see other real high-end players with no points. That’s playoff hockey. Sometimes your teammates got to buy you some time.
“I feel if he plays real well without the puck, he’s going to have the puck a ton and in the end he’ll score.”
Especially if he’s got the right tool to do it with.