Individual Storylines to Watch For in The Second Half: Will Matthews Reach 70 Goals?
The most entertaining individual storyline to follow will be Matthews' pursuit of 70 goals. The Leafs sniper keeps giving fans a reason to watch.
Having already stuffed his mantle with multiple Rocket Richard trophies and a Hart trophy following his sixty-goal season in 2021-2022, Matthews has upped his game. His 40 goals in 46 games before the All-Star break led the NHL.
Thirty more goals in the second half are certainly plausible, but the games are about to get more defensive and tight-checking. For all his talents, opposing coaches are going to do their best to stop Matthews from beating them.
With the extra attention devoted to him down the stretch, Matthews will fall just short of the magic 70-goal mark. He will have to settle for a new Leafs franchise record of somewhere around 65 goals.
Another player to watch is Nylander. His mini-slump before the All-Star game happened to follow his monstrous contract extension. It could be a coincidence, but the longer the slump lasts, or should his second-half production dip, the more this becomes a story.
Nylander's bet on himself paid off, but new-found riches come with problems. He potentially has many years ahead of fending off scrutiny and the wrath of fans should his production not meet expectations.
The Leafs defense and their goaltending also have lots of questions to sort through.
Can Joseph Woll continue his early-season promising play once he returns? Will he stay healthy? Can Ilya Samsonov maintain his resurgence?
Martin Jones provides insurance, but one of Woll or Samsonov needs to grab the number one role and solidify the Leafs goaltending.
The Leafs hope on defense hinges on the aging Mark Giordano and T.J. Brodie to provide important minutes on their blue line. Morgan Rielly must maintain his All-Star level play. The second quarter of the season Jake McCabe is needed instead of the first-quarter version.
With so many questions, should the Leafs be buyers or sellers at the NHL trade deadline?