It’s been a long time since the Hart Memorial Trophy has been awarded to the blue and white. A long 65 years in fact, but Toronto Maple Leafs Auston Matthews may have a chance. Despite scoring 31 goals in 45 games, he’ll have to do even better the rest of the season to do it. Connor McDavid is the favourite with 71 points in 47 games, his frequent linemate Leon Draisaitl is just behind him with 70 points in 47 games. Matthews has 54 total points. Then let’s not forget David Pastrnak who has 35 goals and leads the league in that department. Still, Matthews may have another level to his game, and the core points totals don’t tell the entire story.
Toronto Maple Leafs Auston Matthews For Hart
McDavid is so good it’s not crazy to think that he’ll win the Hart a few times before his career is through. Matthews may not be on McDavid’s level (who is?), but he’s a special player in his own right. He’s scored 142 goals in his career, which consists of 257 games. Relating that to the current era’s best goal scorer, Alex Ovechkin scored 163 in his first three seasons, 245 games.
Matthews rarely goes more than a game or two without recording a point. He hasn’t gone three games pointless this season at all. He also doesn’t often clump his points into a single game. He’s not inflating goal totals by beating up on a weak goalie here and there. Amazingly, he has only one hat trick in his career and that came in his first game ever when he scored four times against the Ottawa Senators. He’s scored twice in eight games this season. In those games, the Maple Leafs are 4-0-4. That’s the sort of stat considered when judging the “player most valuable to their team”. Toronto is 9-12-1 when Matthews fails to score a goal.
He’s also not racking up points against weaker teams. He did manage four assists against the Chicago Blackhawks earlier this season, but other than that game he’s only scored three points three times, and one of those times was in a 4-3 overtime loss to the Washington Capitals.
According to morehockeystats.com, Matthews has three late game-tying goals. That’s a game-tying goal scored in the last three minutes of play. There may be a little recency biased here, but his goal against the Winnipeg Jets last Wednesday shines as an example.
Matthews doesn’t yet have the overtime flair this season, but he does have five career overtime winners. The Maple Leafs have played in eleven overtime games so far this season, and with the nature of three-on-three hockey, it feels like anyone can score at any time, reducing the impact a prominent player can consistently make. The chances of a secondary scoring player scoring in overtime have gone up quite a bit since three-on-three overtime was introduced.
Matthews also has to share the ice with a couple of players that aren’t exactly secondary goal scorers. Toronto has four overtime victories this season. One was won by William Nylander (although that one was more of an own goal by the New Jersey Devils), two were won by John Tavares and the other by Morgan Rielly. That’s a tough company to compete against in overtime.
Defence Wins Games
One thing for certain is Matthews is headed for a career-best season. He’s on pace for 56 goals and 98 points. His possession metrics have also never been better with a 55.3 Corsi For percentage and a 3.9 relative Corsi For, both career bests.
Many people disregard plus/minus as an individual stat, but when considering MVP players, it does have its merits. It helps to show how frequently opposing teams are scoring when that player’s line is on the ice, which is just as important as goals for when considering wins and losses, which an MVP award really should consider first.
Matthews is a +17 so far this season. McDavid for all his offence is a -3. Draisaitl is a -15. Pastrnak is a +15.
“Absolutely,” Sheldon Keefe was quoted in the Toronto Sun. “One of the things we’ve talked to all our team, but I’ve met with Auston about, is whether it’s the intelligence he has, his strength, his speed or his instincts, those things can help him defensively. The more he can be good at that, he’ll have the puck that much more offensively.”
Matthews is not likely to get Selke Trophy consideration this year, although he was 38th in voting for that trophy in his rookie season, so it’s not out of the question that he’ll get a vote or two. He doesn’t need to be the best defensive forward in the league for his defensive capabilities to be considered with Hart trophy voting.
What Are The Chances For Maple Leafs’ Auston Matthews?
Realistically, for the Toronto Maple Leafs, Auston Matthews is probably not going to win the Hart. There are too many prolific players having fantastic seasons. There are still 37 games to be played, however. Keefe has given new life to this team and paired Matthews up with the dynamic Mitch Marner. Marner is another player that could one day see his name in Hart trophy circles. He’s missed time this season, which always hurts trophy voting, but he’s scoring 1.2 points a game. That would put him on pace for 101 points over 82 games. With nearly half a season left, there’s a lot these two could do together before it’s all said and done.
While We’re Talking Trophies
Frederik Andersen is only ninth in save percentage for goalies that have played at least 25 games and 11th in goals-against average. He’s third in wins and saves though. He’s not in the Vezina trophy conversation at the moment, but with a strong finish, he’s in a position to make people think about him when voting. Much of the reason he’s got so many wins is that he plays in a lot of games. Many of the Maple Leafs might say Andersen is the MVP for Toronto this season. Considering their record (3-7-1) without him, it’s hard to argue against that.
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