Just 15 days ago, Connor Mcdavid and Auston Matthews were tied for the league lead in goals with 21 apiece. Look at the scoring charts now, and you’ll see Matthews with an 8 goal lead over the Oiler captain after tonight’s hat trick. It’s a testament to just how good Matthews is when he is fully healthy, he is a weapon of mass destruction.
It was weird to watch Matthews play hockey with a sore wrist. We could all see that he wasn’t comfortable taking actual wrist shots, and his game was a bit tentative. He’d get chances that would usually end up in the back of the net without a moment’s notice, and instead, he’d be looking to pass or would hesitate. It’s not like he wasn’t still an impactful player, but his most dangerous asset was gone, and it felt sort of unfair to make him play hockey without it. It was like watching Hawkeye without his bow and arrow or Spiderman without his webbing; it just wasn’t the same. Thanks to some much-needed break time, the gun is fully loaded again for Matthews, and he is taking dead aim constantly. All you need to do is watch his goals last night for reassurance.
The curl and drag move is becoming as lethal as Ovi’s top circle one-timer at this point. Once Matthews does the drag, he has the goalie at his mercy because the goalie has already gone down, and he can put the puck anywhere he’d like. His release is so fast that the minor extra second the curl and drag takes does not matter.
Matthews’s goalscoring record this year is becoming historic even with the injury issues.
And sure, every hater will say in their stupid, annoying voices, “dO It iN a ReaL diViSiOn.” but to that, I tell my fellow Leaf fans, to not even pay them any mind because there won’t be no asterisk in the record books! Y’all forget that the American Sniper ™ was on a 45 goal pace in 18/19 with KASPERI KAPANEN AND A 39-YEAR-OLD PATRICK MARLEAU AS HIS TWO MAIN WINGERS.
In all seriousness, the lazy takes about the North division take away from what Matthews and Mcdavid, for that matter, have done this year. Does the division have some really sucky teams? Hell yeah, it does, but they’re still NHL teams with NHL goalies. Wayne Gretzky played in an era where goalies quite literally didn’t know what a butterfly was. Are you going to blame him for that? No! I struggle with getting my head around Hockey fans hating seeing good hockey players do stuff. Appreciate good hockey players!
The deeper into the stats we go, the more impressive Matthews’s season is. The centreman is first, according to Evolving-Hockey, in expected wins above replacement and expected goals above replacement. He is second in expected goals, sixth in takeaways and fifth in individual Corsi for. According to Natural Stat Trick, when he and Mitch Marner have been on the ice together this year, the Leafs have had 63.48% of the scoring chances and 65.71 of the high danger chances. So, the next time any rival fan tries to tell you that Auston Matthews is overrated, just ignore them because it is objectively false.
The consistency of the Leaf’s franchise centreman and his goalscoring make it hard not to reminisce back to the summer of 2016. The Leafs had accrued some excellent players through being really bad. But they didn’t have their franchise-altering star, their saviour, their new Mats Sundin, if you will. It’s truly crazy to think about how lucky the front office got in the lottery that year. Despite being the worst team in the league points-wise in the 15/16 season, Toronto still had just a 1 in 5 chance in getting Auston Matthews. Admittedly, I don’t think I nor anyone really understands how the draft lottery works, but although the Leafs had the best odds of any team to grab the generational talent, the probabilities were still stacked against them. Despite all the math, The Leafs succeeded in their tank and got their guy. However, if you think back to that 2016 draft, you’ll realize that the Leafs had one of the worst drafts of all time outside of Matthews. The Leafs had ten picks in total, excluding their first-rounder, including two seconds, two thirds, and two fourths, and missed on practically all of them. Yet, hardly anyone remembers because we got Auston Freaking Matthews baby.
And why should they remember, let alone care? Matthews has been everything that was advertised and more. I’ll even go a step further, and I say this as a person whose childhood hero was Mister Sundin, Auston Matthews quite possibly could go down as the best Leaf ever. If he wants to. He’s going to be the first Leaf ever to win the Rocket Richard. He’s already 14th on the Leafs’ all-time goal-scoring list and is just 231 goals behind Mats Sundin for first on that list. On his current pace, Matthews will pass the big Swede by the time he’s 28. If the 23-year-old can bring the Stanley Cup to Toronto, there won’t be any debate left to be had.
Leafs fans need to be as grateful as humanly possible for Auston Matthews. He has brought us back to relevance; with some help, he’s made our team fun to watch again, and if anyone is going to bring us to the promised land, it’s him.