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Maturation of Matthews puts Leafs on cusp of ending drought

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TSN Toronto reporter Mark Masters checks in daily with news and notes on the Maple Leafs. The Leafs practised at Scotiabank Arena Wednesday morning ahead of Game 6.

Auston Matthews scored a huge goal Friday night in Boston, but it was a subtle play he made later in Game 5 that Mike Babcock chose to focus on after the nervy 2-1 win. The Leafs coach pointed out that his 21-year-old centre was in perfect position to receive a pass from Ron Hainsey before feeding Morgan Rielly for a quick break out from the defensive zone leading to the game-winning goal by Kasperi Kapanen.

"He's right there for the D on the play and makes that play coming out of the D-zone," Babcock noted. "People just think because you are a good player that you know how to do that. You don't know how to do that, because you didn't have to when you were a kid."

Babcock called it the best 200-foot game of the playoffs for Matthews. It was yet another sign of how he's matured in his third NHL season.

"It's come a long way since my first year," Matthews acknowledged. "It's obviously really important to hone in that defensive aspect, because you have the puck more and as an offensive guy I want the puck as much as possible."

Why's it sinking in now?

"Well, I don't think it's just sinking in now, it's just he's a young player in the National Hockey League and you're playing centre and it's hard and it takes time," Babcock said. "It takes a ton of work. You got to get up and down the rink, up and down the rink 82 nights a year and then in the playoffs .... what you find is it’s hard to do it right all the time, it's a lot easier not to do it right."

The Maple Leafs are one win away from winning the team’s first playoff series in 15 years. It's been the face of the franchise, Auston Matthews, leading the way with four goals in the last three games, Matthews and the young core are growing up and now they have to finish the job against the rival Bruins. Mark Masters has more in this report.

It's also tougher when you’re playing alongside two inexperienced wingers as Matthews is right now with 24-year-old Andreas Johnsson (11 NHL playoff games) and the........