With the 2019-20 season officially over, Auston Matthews was three away from a 50 goal milestone. Did he also miss a legitimate chance at winning the scoring race?
The Toronto Maple Leafs didn’t exactly exceed (let alone meet) expectations from this past season. The talent in their locker room is certainly far greater than their record would imply.
They struggled to be sitting in a playoff spot, never truly claiming it comfortably. Had this past campaign continued, they would have been battling to the end of it to stay there.
None of that stopped Auston Matthews from having another first overall pick type of year.
Auston Matthews and the Rocket Richard Trophy
Matthews’ numbers continue to strengthen with each season and he is shaping into an unstoppable force for this team’s offense.
The race for the Rocket Richard Trophy is always an exciting one, yet it’s also the most straightforward. Score the most goals, win the award. There is nothing subjective about it, like there could be with many other major NHL accolades.
However, Matthews had 30 5v5 goals, leading the NHL by three. This is a bigger accomplishment than winning the total-goals trophy, since its harder to score at 5v5.
Could Auston have won it this year, if he had the chance to finish the season the way it was originally scheduled to play out?
Below is a breakdown of what would have been Toronto’s remaining 12 games and the projected goals Matthews would presumptively have earned throughout them, had he played in each one.
The calculated number beside each team represents the average goals per game he has scored against that respective opponent, thus far throughout his career. It is then assumed that he would score that amount in each proceeding game against them, too.
Game 71: Nashville Predators – 0.4
Game 72: Boston Bruins – 0.3
Game 73: New Jersey Devils – 0.9
Game 74: New York Islanders – 0.6
Game 75: Columbus Blue Jackets – 0.4
Game 76: Florida Panthers – 0.5
Game 77: Tampa Bay Lightning – 0.4
Game 78: Carolina Hurricanes – 0.3
Game 79: Ottawa Senators – 0.9
Game 80: Washington Capitals – 0.5
Game 81: Detroit Red Wings – 0.9
Game 82: Montreal Canadiens – 0.9
Even if a simpler exercise is used to calculate the total number of goals he’d end up with, based solely on the pace in which he was scoring, that projected amount comes out to 55. So, it’s easy to assume that Matthews would have tallied 54-55 goals.
Obviously, to make a more objective comparison on who would have won the award if the season played out, the same types of analyses would need to be done for Ovechkin and Pastrnak, respectively.
Looking strictly at projected totals, based on each player’s goal-scoring pace, here’s how that would have looked if they had the chance to play the remainder of the original schedule:
Ovechkin – 57 goals
Pastrnak – 56 goals
Matthews – 55 goals
Although this race would have been as close of a finish as it was from the start, all signs point to Ovechkin still winning this one. And he may have even had the title all to himself, instead.
One thing is for sure: With his goal-scoring pace increasing every season throughout his first four with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Auston Matthews will undoubtedly be a competitor in this category for years to come.