Since the 1981-82 season, the Toronto Maple Leafs single-season goal record has stood at 54 goals. Rick Vaive used his third season with the Leafs to set the record, following it up with the 51 and 52 goals over the next two seasons. Since that time, no Maple Leaf has been able to match this total, with Leafs legends such as Mats Sundin, Wendel Clark, Doug Gilmour and Dave Andreychuk all putting in efforts with no luck. Then Auston Matthews arrived on the scene.
Auston Matthews Goals Record Is Only the Beginning
It took Matthews until his sixth season, but in dramatic fashion against the reigning Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning team, Matthews put up a hat-trick to tie Vaive with 54 goals. Matthews then put an emphasis on the season by not only scoring his 55th goal of the season, setting a new record for the Maple Leafs, but also scoring his 56th on an overtime winner. He added 57 and 58 last night against the Montreal Canadiens, giving him 51 goals in his last 50 games.
We all know that Matthews is one of, if not the best, pure goal scorer in the league. Breaking Vaive’s record was almost seen as an expectation instead of a lofty goal to meet. Maybe that’s why Leafs fans are so quickly turning the conversation from “Can he set the record” to “just how many will he get?”.
The Rest of the Season
There are a few different ways that we can look to answer this question. So far this season, Matthews is scoring 0.87 goals per game. With 11 games remaining on the Leafs regular-season schedule, this would mean that, if he follows his season average, Matthews would finish with 67 goals on the season This would make him the first player to do so since Alex Ovechkin scored 65 in the 07-08 season. 67 goals would be an incredible feat for Matthews to accomplish, but is this realistic? Can he score more?
It Can Happen
In the last 10 games, Matthews has a GPG of 1.1 (11 goals in the last 10 games). Scorers can be incredibly streaky over the course of a year, and although Matthews is notoriously not a streaky scorer, it would be very hard to argue that he isn’t playing some of the best hockey of the year right now. Using his goals per game over those 10 games, he would be on pace to score 11 goals over the last 10 games, bringing his season total to 69 goals. This is a total that hasn’t been seen in the NHL since Mario Lemieux scored 69 in the 95-96 season.
While that amount of total goals may seem unrealistic to some, there are other statistical avenues we can look at to support this overall goal total, by looking at shooting percentage. Over the course of the season, Matthews has a shooting percentage of 17.8% on 314 shots (as of Saturday — first in the league). It has been well reported that in his search to set the Maple Leafs single-season scoring record, Matthews has been shooting the puck A LOT. Over the past 10 games, he has registered 52 shots on net, giving him 5.2 shots per game.
If Matthews were to continue putting 5.2 pucks on net for the remaining 11 games of the season, at his season shooting percentage of 17.8%, he would score 8.9 goals to end the season. This would bring him to 67 goals at the season’s end. Given the fact that Matthews has 4.75 shots per game on the season, this increased shooting volume is a key indicator of the sustainability of Matthews’s current 10-game goals per game rate.
Whether Matthews ends this season with 58, 69 or anywhere in between, Leafs fans are sure to be elated over the incredible effort that he has put in this season to set a new franchise record for single-season goals. While many may look at Matthews and say that the expectation is to now break the 60 goal mark, which would be an amazing achievement in itself. It is safe to say that Matthews himself is pushing for much more than that, both on the individual achievement side but also looking forward as the Maple Leafs look to clinch a playoff spot.
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