It was an incredible night for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
They destroyed the Winnipeg Jets – and possibly their playoff hopes – while the best player in Toronto Maple Leafs franchise history scored his 50th goal of the season.
The game was fun to watch – the Leafs came from behind then absolutely dominated, William Nylander had a great game, Mark Giordano scored, the goalie was OK, and Ilya Mikheyev continued his strong season.
But all that pales in comparison to Auston Matthews scoring his 50th goal. It may have been into an empty net, but they all count. At his current nearly goal-per-game pace, he stands a chance, at least, of hitting 65 this year and matching the highest count of the century.
Toronto Maple Leafs and Auston Matthews
The 50 goals number is a round number that makes people stop and think about it, but realistically this is Matthews’ third straight season where he played well enough to score 50 goals, it’s just that the NHL shortened each of the last two seasons before he got a chance.
Truthfully, if the previous two seasons were regular length, Matthews could be going for his third straight 60 goal season (something only Mike Bossy, Brett Hull and Wayne Gretzky have ever done) and for sure his second straight.
Matthews currently has 43 goals in his last 45 games, which is absolute bonkers when you consider how hard it is to score in today’s gave vs the time when Wayne Gretzky was playing (Or Andreychuck, Vaive or Leeman for that matter).
Matthews’ current goal scoring run is at least as good, if not better, than the time Gretzky scored 50 goals in 38 games, if you adjust it for the era.
Not only that, but you have to go back all the way to 1995-96 to find anyone who scored 50 goals in so few games. (Within a single year back then Mario Lemieux, Petr Bondra and Cam Neely all did it).
The two Gold Standards for player evaluation – JFresh Player Cards, and the player cards put out by the Athletic, both rank Auston Matthews as the best effective NHL player this season, better than Connor McDavid.
While it’s true that other players have more points, goals are more valuable than points, and Matthews racks them up at a pace no one else is even close to, and he scores way more at 5v5 which is even more valuable.
For example Matthews has 43 goals in his last 45 games, and the next highest scorer during this period, Kaprizov, has 33. Those are all-situation goals. If we just look at 5v5 goals, Matthews has 29 during the last 45 games, just 4 less than Kaprizov’s total.
For the entire season, in six less games, Matthews has seven more 5v5 goals than Leon Draisaitl. In total, Matthews has just one more goal in six less games, but he did it while recovering from wrist surgery (one goal in his first six games).
Offensively, Matthews has provided more value than any other player in the NHL this season. Matthews is also the only elite offensive player who also provides elite defense.
That is why you keep hearing that this is the best season anyone has had in the NHL in 20 years. There just hasn’t been a player this century who is as good at both ends of the ice. The fact that he’s scoring at a Lemieux/Ovechkin pace, while proving top notch defense is unheard of.
Auston Matthews has earned entry into the pantheon of hockey greats than includes Gretzky, Lemieux, Lindros, McDavid, Crosby and Ovechkin. Not only will he win the Hart trophy this season, and maybe even the Stanley Cup, but if he got the extra minute of PP time that MacKinnon and McDavid get, he’s probably also win the scoring title.
It’s getting so it’s impossible to discuss Matthews without sounding crazy. Best season in 20 years, better than Ovechkin at his best, on par with Mario and Wayne. Better than McDavid…..the numbers don’t lie, so you might as well just enjoy it, because we’ve never seen anything like this before and we likely won’t ever again.
So if you’re a grumpy Toronto Maple Leafs fan who hates everything and hasn’t had a single ounce of fun this season, I really just feel bad for you at this point, because this is the best season the Leafs have had since the last time they won the Cup.
At this point, arguing that Huberdeau, Shesterkin or Draisaitl should win the Hart Trophy would be like trying say that the song “Baby Shark” is better than the song “Hey Jude.”