Auston Matthews' cheeky response to being booed in Montreal

Mike Armenti
April 8, 2024  (3:29 PM)

Auston Matthews, focused, and ready for the faceoff
Photo credit: Kevin Allen - USA Today Sports

On Saturday night in Montreal, nearly every time Maple Leafs franchise cornerstone Auston Matthews touched the puck, he was booed. Surprisingly, though, he didn't mind it one bit.

Matthews scoring his 64th goal of the season on Saturday, putting him just 6 away from scoring 70 goals this season. Obviously, the fans at the Bell Centre in Montreal weren't too enthused watching Matthews pot one against their hometown team, but their disdain for the two-time Rocket Richard Trophy winner was not limited to just when he scored his goal. Every time Matthews touched the puck, the fans made sure to remind him where he was.
So, how did Matthews feel about being booed so relentlessly on Hockey Night in Canada? Well, actually, he had a surprising outlook on it.
"Honestly, I kind of find it like a tone of respect, I guess, especially in a building like this and a big time hockey city and fan base. So, I don't mind (smile). I don't mind at all."

Matthews viewed how fans in Montreal were treating him as a sign of respect. Obviously, the hometown fans are never going to cheer for the opposing players, but in Matthews' mind, anytime he gets booed in Montreal, it's an acknowledgement from the fans just how much they fear Matthews when the puck is on his stick. They know how quickly he can put it in the back of the net, and so by booing him when he gets his puck touches, they're simply reminding Matthews that he's one of the very best players out there. In that sense, he looks at it as more respectful than disrespectful.
This is an interesting situation to me, because when fans boo a player like Brad Marchand, you know they're doing it because of the reputation he's built as a bit of a rat over the course of his career. For Matthews, he hasn't presented himself that way. All he does is score - and score a slot. Therefore, in that sense, I can see why he views it as a sign of respect. They're doing it because they know he's always a scoring threat, not because they don't like the player or his on-ice behaviour.
Matthews and the Leafs have just six games remaining on the schedule, including a meeting with the Pittsburgh Penguins tonight. You have to assume that Sheldon Keefe is going to sit Matthews for at least one remaining game to give him some extra rest ahead of the playoffs, but it will be really interesting to see what happens if Matthews makes it all the way to the final game and has 69 goals. The Leafs sat Marner and stalled him at 99 points last season, so I don't think they're overly concerned with individual stats. That much was evident when Keefe had addressed the subject of Matthews' 70-goal pace last week. Of course, Matthews can potentially avoid any such situation by simply scoring 6 more goals in the next 4 or 5 games. He has 17 multi-goal games this season, including 6 hat tricks, so it's certainly possible.
8 AVRIL   |   390 ANSWERS
Auston Matthews' cheeky response to being booed in Montreal

If Auston Matthews is at 69 goals before the last game of the season, what do you think Sheldon Keefe should do?

Sit him. Rest him for the playoffs205.1 %
Play him. Let him try for 7030778.7 %
Don't care either way, as long as he's healthy6316.2 %
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