Matthews on Leafs' first-round playoff exit: 'The only way is forward'
Toronto Maple Leafs forward Auston Matthews John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Auston Matthews on Maple Leafs blowing 3-1 series lead to Canadiens: 'The only way is forward'

The Toronto Maple Leafs were eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs in the first round for the fifth straight year. It marked another disappointing season for the franchise that hasn't won a playoff series since the 2003-04 campaign. 

Auston Matthews has been involved in each of those first-round playoff exits since the 2016-17 campaign. The former first overall pick recently told ESPN's Greg Wyshynski that this past season's playoff loss to the Montreal Canadiens wasn't easy to get over.

Toronto boasted a 3-1 series lead over the Canadiens, which made it to the Stanley Cup Final, in the first round before blowing it in seven games. 

"No, it was definitely harder, in that sense. It's tough ... it's obviously really frustrating. It sucks right now. People have opinions and they can say what they want, and rightfully so, but I really believe in the team and I really believe in all of the players on the team — the core group especially," Matthews said.

He added: 

"I truly believe that we're going to get it done. We're going to be better from our losses, and from the adversity that we faced. The only way is forward. [The playoff loss] sucked. There's no other way to put it. Extremely disappointing. But it'll just feel that much better when we eventually get to the top."

Matthews has been Toronto's best player since being drafted, tallying 351 points (199 goals, 152 assists) in 334 games. However, he has failed to elevate his game in the postseason, as have many of his teammates. 

If Toronto fails to make it past the first round during the 2021-22 campaign, the club will undoubtedly be in for a slew of changes next summer.

Erin Walsh is a Boston sports fan through and through. She graduated Summa Cum Laude from Bridgewater State University and currently is in pursuit of her Master's Degree in Journalism from Northeastern University. Follow her on Twitter @ewalsh90.

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