While it seems like a bold statement to make; the Toronto Maple Leafs are proving that Auston Matthews isn’t required every night.
Indeed, with Auston Matthews having a few absences this season whether due to injury or suspension; the Toronto Maple Leafs have just kept winning games regardless.
Now, it’s not to say that the Leafs aren’t a much better team with their 58-goal man in the line-up because of course, they are.
However, they’re showing a different kind of resilience in finding ways to get results and this is can only be a positive thing as they’ll need that resilience to get past the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Toronto Maple Leafs Without Auston Matthews
What’s perhaps more impressive is that Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe has found multiple different ways to compensate for Auston Matthews absence from the line-up.
It hasn’t always simply been a case of plugging John Tavares in as the top-line center with Michael Bunting and Mitch Marner. In fact, he’s tried several different looks and his experimenting has paid off.
Mitch Marner, who is Auston Matthews’ most regular line mate has still found himself centered by John Tavares most commonly in Matthews’ absence, but also has had looks alongside Nicholas Abruzesse and a very varied cast on the opposite wing.
In the 7 games without Auston Matthews in the line-up, the Toronto Maple Leafs have scored 23 goals; not half bad for a team missing their leading goal scorer.
That’s an average of 3.29 goals-per-game; just shy of the 3.87 the team is averaging across the whole season. While it’s a team number, you might garner a conclusion that Matthews is worth that missing 0.58 goals-per-game given the rate he is scoring goals at.
However, the Toronto Maple Leafs have a combined Expected Goals For percentage of 57.34% in the games without Auston Matthews in the line-up. It paints a very pretty picture of how the team can adapt to his absences.
In all situations and factoring in every game this season (including the Matthews’ absences), the Toronto Maple Leafs have an average Expected Goals For percentage of 54.97%.
Of course, we can draw a couple of conclusions from these statistics. Those being that Auston Matthews has been in the line-up in some high-scoring fixtures which inevitably draw the overall number down.
Likewise, the number with Matthews missing is only a small seven-game sample and thus will swing a lot more wildly game-to-game if he were to miss more nights.
Either way, it speaks to a team that can remove 102 points and 58 goals from the line-up, plug in replacement depth elsewhere in the line-up and still get the job done. That hasn’t been the case in the past.
Every night, any Toronto Maple Leafs fan would prefer a fit and healthy Auston Matthews to be in the line-up, but the team equally can adapt now in his absence, which is a big development.
If the Toronto Maple Leafs can allow Auston Matthews recovery time and not feel the ill effects, it’s speaks to a much greater level of comfort surrounding the team as a whole and that can only be a good thing heading into the playoffs.