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Auston Matthews Historic Regular Season Ends with 69 Goals

Maple Leafs consistency

Auston Matthews concluded the 2023-2024 regular season with an impressive tally of 69 goals, solidifying his legacy in hockey history. Though remarkable, his achievement comes as no surprise to most hockey fans captivated by his relentless pace throughout the season. Matthews went on a 14-game point streak, with 13 goals and 11 assists as the season wound down in his pursuit for 70.

“I definitely wanted it,” Matthews said, his smile emerging, referring to the 70-goal mark. “But it just wasn’t meant to be.” Despite falling just short of the coveted 70-goal milestone, this season was nothing short of incredible for Matthews. He continued by saying his main focus, as always, remained on the team’s success heading into playoffs.

Among Elite Company

After his record breaking season, his name is now among the best of company, and we are potentially witnessing the greatest goal-scorer in history. There’s no doubt he is the best American-born goal scorer, no doubt he is the best of his time. But being mentioned alongside Wayne Gretzky, Brett Hull, Mario Lemieux, and Teemu Selanne solidifies his status as a hockey great.

With each goal, Matthews achieved historic benchmarks. This included Alex Ovechkin’s single-season record of 65 goals and tying Mario Lemieux’s three-decade-old mark of 69 goals. By matching and eclipsing these milestones, Matthews has firmly established himself among the ranks of the all-time greats. Matthews’ achievement also marks him as the first to seriously contest this goal-scoring number of 70. Not since the historic 76-goal season in 1992-1993 of Alexander Mogilny and Selanne has the 70-mark been achieved. In an era marked by elite goaltending, Matthews’ consistent scoring sets him apart as a generational talent, despite falling just one tuck short of the 70-goal milestone.

Displaying Dominance Through Greatness

Throughout the season, Matthews displayed a level of dominance rarely seen in the modern era of hockey. With six hat tricks, 12 multi-goal games, and 16 games with four or more points, Matthews’ offensive ability was nothing short of spectacular.

Matthews’ season has been marked by numerous near misses and close calls. He hit the post over 20 times throughout the season and even had a goal called back against the Washington Capitals. In the final game against the Lightning, he had 12 shots on goal, each one an incredible chance at finding the back of the net.

It’s staggering to imagine how many goals Matthews could have scored if those crossbar shots had found their mark. What’s even more impressive is that the majority of his goals came during 5-on-5 play, indicating his ability to capitalize in even-strength situations. With just two empty-net goals this season, it’s hard to deny that Matthews isn’t the best goal scorer in the league at this time.

A Complete Player Beyond Goals

While Matthews’ 69-goal season garnered much-deserved attention, his contributions extended far beyond putting the puck in the net. His dedication to a complete 200-foot game and focus on defensive excellence make him truly elite. Matthews’, winner of the 2023-24 Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy, has shown that he is more than just a one-dimensional, goal scorer this season. His teammates and coaching staff have acknowledged that although the goal scoring is exceptional, the Arizona native plays a full 200-foot game, and his defensive skills are what make him a world-class player.

Auston Matthews finds himself in contention for numerous accolades this season, and he should be a serious contender for the Selke Trophy. This award is given to the forward who demonstrates the most skill in the defensive component of the game. Matthews’ candidacy for the Selke Trophy is often overlooked due to his world-class scoring ability. However, his defensive contributions should not be overlooked. He consistently showcases strong defensive skills, including adept wall play, precise stick checking, and expertly stripping opponents of the puck. Additionally, he has registered 93 blocked shots this season, along with 90 hits.

A Leader On and Off the Ice

Matthews’ impact extends beyond his on-ice performance as evidenced by his nomination from the Leafs for the King Clancy Memorial Trophy. This award recognizes players who demonstrate exceptional leadership both on and off the ice, while also making significant contributions to their communities. Throughout the season, Matthews has shown exemplary leadership qualities, often carrying the team on his shoulders during crucial moments.

Matthews acknowledges all of his teammates for their success, demonstrating his appreciation for their contributions. This is exemplified through “the Belt,” a symbolic gesture awarded to the player of the game in the Leafs locker room. Throughout the season, there were multiple instances where Matthews awarded the belt to players who may not always receive the spotlight. Additionally, there was an occasion when he declined the belt from goaltender Ilya Samsonov, believing Samsonov deserved it more. As he continues to develop into a leader within the Leafs organization, it’s clear that his contributions haven’t gone unnoticed.

Generational Talent Chasing History

Matthews’ journey to 69 goals was not without its challenges. Despite enduring a nine-game goal drought earlier in the season, Matthews remained focused in pursuing the 70-goal milestone. His commitment to his craft and relentless work ethic propelled him through adversity, culminating in a record-breaking season.

As Matthews celebrates this achievement, attention now turns to another milestone within reach—the Toronto Maple Leafs all-time goal-scoring record. Matthews is now expected to surpass one of the greatest ever to wear the blue and white, Maple Leafs legend, Mats Sundin. In his 13 seasons with the Leafs, Sundin netted 420 goals. Matthews’s tally of 368 career goals positions him to rewrite another record.

Matthews has achieved the 50-goal mark three times in his career. If he reaches it again, he will surpass this milestone in just his ninth season with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The MVP Narrative: A Season for the Ages

Matthews’ season has been nothing short of sensational, earning him chants of “MVP” in arenas across the league. Given his widespread acknowledgment of dominance, he should be taken just as seriously as perennial MVP contenders. Despite falling just one goal short of 70, the Hart Memorial Trophy seems well within reach for him.

Main photo: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports


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