The Toronto Maple Leafs are about to begin another playoff run. This year, they play the defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round. All eyes will be on Auston Matthews and his linemate Mitch Marner.
Marner and Matthews are no longer rookies without playoff experience. They are in their prime years as hockey players. Mitch Marner will turn 25 years old on May 5th of this year. Matthews is also 24 years old. He will turn 25 on September 17th. Both have played for the Leafs since the 2016-2017 season. They are forever linked, like baseball's M and M boys, Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris.
Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews played remarkably well during the 2021-22 NHL regular season. Marner garnered 35 goals and 62 assists, for a total of 97 points. Meanwhile, Matthews recorded 60 goals and 46 assists, for a total of 106 points. M and M produced a combined total of 95 goals, 108 assists and 203 points.
Matthews was deservedly praised for his 60-goal season and for surpassing former Leaf captain Rick Vaive's record for the highest number of goals by a Maple Leaf in a single season (Vaive amassed 54 goals in 1981-82). Despite this accomplishment, Matthews has yet to really dominate during a playoff series. He has recorded 13 goals, 11 assists and has a plus-minus of -3 in the 32 playoff games in his career. A good regular season does not make up for continually losing in the first series of post-season play, as the Leafs have done in recent years.
Mitch Marner has only five goals, 20 assists and a plus-minus of -1 in 32 career playoff games. In last season's disastrous playoff round against the Montreal Canadiens Marner and Matthews combined for a grand total of one goal. The series began terribly for the Leafs when their captain, John Tavares, was injured. M and M and the rest of the team did not go to the limit to make up for the loss of Tavares. Instead, they were defeated by an arguably inferior team.
The time has come for Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews to really prove themselves. The Leafs' dynamic duo has been less than dynamic in playoff competition. Although their performances in regular season play have been praiseworthy and very commendable, the same can't be said for the playoffs. Leaf fans are well aware that M and M are getting paid big bucks to win in both the regular season and in the playoffs. They are also aware that great players come through when everything is on the line. Therefore, much is expected of Marner and Matthews. Will this be the year that M and M finally break out in post-season play or will their team once again be eliminated in the first round? An anxious Leaf Nation awaits.