Skip to main content

Auston Matthews is tied for second in goals with Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals. Each has 24, two fewer than Leon Draisaitl of the Edmonton Oilers.BRUCE BENNETT/Getty Images

The day after he set a franchise record by scoring in his ninth consecutive road game, the Maple Leafs’ Auston Matthews was chosen captain of the Atlantic Division squad at the NHL all-star game in Las Vegas on Feb. 5.

It is the fifth time the 24-year-old centre has been selected for the team and the second time he will serve as the Atlantic captain. Toronto goalie Jack Campbell was also selected and will make his first appearance. He will share the net with Andrei Vasilevskiy of Tampa Bay.

No all-star game was held last year because the season started late and was abbreviated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It is a big honour to be selected and to surround yourself with the best players in the league,” Matthews said earlier this week. “All-star weekends are busy, but it is worth it. It is fun getting to know guys you grew up watching and meeting new people.

“All in all it is a pretty unique experience.”

Ten of the 11 players on each team representing the league’s four divisions were revealed Thursday night during a live telecast on ESPN. The captain of each team was determined by fan voting, with nine players appointed by officials from the NHL’s Hockey Operations department. One additional player on each team will be picked by fans as part of a Last Man In campaign.

A skills competition will take place at T-Mobile Arena on Feb. 4 with a 3-on-3 tournament staged the next day.

Matthews scores on Colorado Avalanche goaltender Jonas Johansson during the first period in Toronto on Dec. 1, 2021.The Canadian Press

Matthews, who won the Rocket Richard Trophy by scoring the most goals during the 2021 season, is tied for second with Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals. Each has 24, two fewer than Leon Draisaitl of the Edmonton Oilers.

In his first full year as Toronto’s starter, Campbell is 18-5-3 with a 2.02 goals-against average and .935 save percentage. He also has four shutouts.

Three other Maple Leafs were listed on the fan ballots – captain John Tavares, forward Mitch Marner and defenceman Morgan Rielly – but were not among the players chosen.

“It is a showcase for the league, for the players themselves and the organization,” Toronto head coach Sheldon Keefe said this week. “We are very fortunate to have a lot of players that could represent our team. The more the better. We certainly have a lot of guys that earned that distinction.”

Connor McDavid of Edmonton will be captain of the Pacific Division team, Nathan MacKinnon will lead the Central Division squad and Ovechkin will lead the Metropolitan Division team.

Excitement grows for Auston Matthews as Maple Leafs head west on road trip

Nylander is driving the Leafs’ success, whether fans want to admit it or not

The Maple Leafs had a day off on Thursday after losing to Arizona 2-1 on Wednesday in the second game of a back-to-back. They lost despite outshooting the Coyotes 46-18 thanks to a superb effort from rookie goaltender Karel Vejmelka, who recorded 45 saves or more for the third time this season.

Petr Mrazek stopped 16 of 18 shots and took the loss in Toronto’s net. Campbell’s backup gave up an early goal and then another in the third period in the defeat by the league’s second-worst team.

Matthews’s goal was the high point for the Maple Leafs, who fell to 23-9-3 and play again on Saturday in St. Louis against the Blues.

Matthews scored 14 seconds into the third period to set a team record for consecutive road games, nine, with a goal. Matthews has 11 goals during the streak. Babe Dye (Jan. 3, 1921 to Feb. 12, 1921), Frank Mahovlich (Dec. 1, 1960 to Jan. 5, 1961) and Daniel Marois (Oct. 7 to Nov. 9, 1989) held the previous mark of eight games.

“I thought we really controlled the play for the most part of the game,” Matthews said. “Sometimes you just run into a hot goalie and you have to tip your hat to him.”

The Blues were 21-10-5 as they headed into a game against the Seattle Kraken on Thursday night and will pose a formidable challenge. They are third in the Central Division, had won four of their past five games and were 9-2-1 over their past 12.

St. Louis lacks a superstar such as Matthews but rolls out strong lines. Centre Jordan Kyrou leads the team with 14 goals and 36 points, just ahead of winger Vladimir Tarasenko, who has 14 goals and 20 assists. It also has two players with 13 goals – Pavel Buchnevich and Ivan Barbashev – and another with 12 in Brandon Saad.

Comparatively, Toronto has three players with 10 goals or more in Matthews, Nylander (16) and Tavares (14).

St. Louis also fields a rugged defence and a top goaltender in Jordan Binnington. It all makes for a long night in Game 4 of a six-game trip.

“I think the day off ... is going to be important for us,” Keefe said after the loss to Arizona. “I think our group looked tired here. In that third period it seemed like we hit a wall. There was no life and no energy on our bench when we needed it. To me, that is a sign of fatigue, but it makes me start to wonder about our conditioning and where we’re at there. But clearly we have to find ways to be rising to the occasion at the right times rather than falling flat.”