How Auston Matthews Gathered His Best Year In Toronto

Auston Matthews is having the best season of his career and the highest scoring season in Toronto Maple Leafs history. But that won’t mean much unless he and his team finally get together in the NHL playoffs.

In his first five seasons after being selected by Toronto in the 2016 NHL draft, Matthews scored 40, 34, 37, 47 and 41 goals, so many people expected him to reach 50 this season. But few are expected her being 58There are still five games left for the team.

That’s the highest total in the league since Steven Stamkos reached 60 for the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2011-12 season. More importantly for Toronto fans is the Leafs record in 1981-82, beating Rick Vaive’s 54th.

That puts 24-year-old Matthews on top of many Leafs greats over the years, including legends like Mats Sundin, Dave Keon, Darryl Sittler, and Frank Mahovlich.

Alongside his 44 assists, his scores in shots, packs, and even win percentage are career highs. Leading the league in hat-trick, the four that doubled the others. And all these numbers come despite the team sitting down with a win in their last two games. minor injuryResting for the playoffs starting May 2 (all numbers until Tuesday night games.)

This set of stats made him a favorite to take the Hart Memorial Trophy as the most valuable player away from Edmonton Oilers’ Connor McDavid.

As with almost any player who has significantly increased their goal total, Matthews has taken 563 more shots so far, 330 of them clear. But his 17.6 shooting percentage this season is in line with his career numbers, a sign that his workload is growing organically and he’s not pummeling.

Another reason why players’ goal totals can spike suddenly is because they are increasingly used in power play. While Matthews’ total power play goal of 15 is a career high, it’s in line with his last two full seasons, where he’s had 12 in each. (He scored 10 goals in 52 games last season.) He has scored 43 equally strong goals so far, eight more than his career best and 10 more than his closest rival in the league.

(The short-handed game is not part of Matthews’ game. He has no goals or assists and is just one short shot in his career.)

While the defense is harder to measure and sometimes not as important to a center, Matthews widely touted as a standout at that end of the ice.

Matthews owes some of his success to one seriously ticking line. Right wing Mitch Marner is in the league’s top 10 with 61 assists, and left wing Michael Bunting is nominated for rookie of the year at the age of 26.

As a result, the Leafs have 108 points, third best in the league and are spoken of as a true Stanley Cup contender.

However, no one has engraved their names on the trophy yet. This is partly because the teams above them, the Florida Panthers and Colorado Avalanche, both look phenomenal. But it’s also worth noting that the Leafs have a habit of dropping into the playoffs, often to teams that look worse on paper.

Last season, the team took a 3-1 lead in the series against the Montreal Canadiens in the first round, but lost two games in extra time, then lost Game 7 at home. Matthews has not scored in any of these last three games.

They lost to the Columbus Blue Jackets in the qualifying round in 2020. In 2019 and 2018, they lost to the Boston Bruins in the opening round in seven games.

The team has not won any playoff series since 2004 and has not won the Cup since 1967.

There are two common explanations for when teams lose a large number of close series. One was that they were unlucky. The other is that they somehow fail to deliver in the clutch. Leafs fans will be hoping that the first announcement applies to their team.

It’s an oddity that perhaps the two biggest stars of the current NHL, Matthews and McDavid, have not been able to make it to the playoffs. McDavid, the reigning MVP with the Edmonton Oilers, is now in his seventh year but has only won one playoff round.

While not particularly heralded this year, the Oilers look playoff-ready. A Leafs-Oilers Stanley Cup final, anyone objecting to Matthews and McDavid’s opening match?

Two groups of Canadian fans would love to see it, and you suspect many neutral fans will too. It could help us make up for the United States-Canada Olympic gold medal game we never won.

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