Sheldon Keefe Should Relish the "Distraction" of Matthews Pursuit of 70 Goals

The head coach of the Leafs used the word "distraction" to describe Auston Matthews' pursuit of 70 goals. Admittedly, Sheldon Keefe even got caught up in the anticipation of the milestone in front of the home crowd at Scotiabank Arena and that's okay.
Toronto Maple Leafs v New Jersey Devils
Toronto Maple Leafs v New Jersey Devils / Elsa/GettyImages

After reflecting upon his team's latest porous defensive effort in a 5-4 overtime loss to the Detroit Red Wings, Toronto Maple Leafs head coach called star center Auston Matthews' pursuit of seventy goals a "major distraction".

In fairness to Keefe, he was referencing the home crowd's anticipation of Matthews hitting the milestone after the Toronto Maple Leafs center scored goal number sixty-nine earlier in the game.

Keefe admittedly got caught up in the euphoria of the home crowd, double-shifting Matthews late in the game, called a timeout to help rest his top scorer, and played Matthews almost twenty-four minutes during the game.

As the coach of the team, Keefe likely laments the fact the Leafs goaltending, defense, and structure have gone by the wayside over the last two games. Matthews reaching seventy goals has become the story. His Leafs teammates are doing all they can to help him get there and that's okay.

Sheldon Keefe Should Relish the "Distraction" of Matthews Pursuit of 70 Goals

Keefe was also recently questioned for having Matthews on the bench with the New Jersey Devils net empty, foregoing a potential opportunity for the Leafs center to add to his goal total.

Even away from Scotiabank arena, Keefe can't escape the talk of Matthews and his quest for 70.

With the Leafs now entrenched in third place in the Atlantic Division, they know they will start the NHL playoffs on the road, but they still don't know their opponent. Only, that it will be either the Boston Bruins or Florida Panthers.

That leaves the Leafs and their players with little to play for, so the focus has shifted to Matthews.

The Matthews Watch Now The Only Reason to Tune In

The Leafs defense and goaltending have been leaking oil over the past few games. Ilya Samsonov has struggled and the defense tandems remain in flux. Keefe must cringe watching it.

The coach in him sees multiple issues that must be addressed and fixed with the start of the postseason less than a week away.

Shaky goaltending, missed defensive assignments, regressing special teams play, and lineup decisions are just a few of the items that need attention. 

Keefe wants to get his team in order before the intensity of the playoffs begin, while the players trudge through the last few games with little motivation other than helping their teammate make history.

At this point, the most important team goal is getting and staying healthy through the last two regular season games. Matthews has come this far and close to making history that Keefe must do all he can to help it come to fruition. 

That means allowing his players to go outside the team structure in an attempt to help Matthews. Aside from the Matthews chase for seventy, the last two games are essentially exhibition contests.

Should Matthews reach the mark, it will be a positive jolt to the Leafs players before the playoffs start. Even if Matthews doesn't make it, not giving him every opportunity to reach it would not play well within the dressing room.

Ideally, it happens early in the Leafs next game. Then managing the roster, resting players and preparing for the Stanley Cup playoffs can begin in earnest. 


The Toronto Maple Leafs players and Keefe himself have a chance to be associated with Matthews making history. They need to see it through. An individual goal that can give a boost to the greater team goal ahead.