Thanks to his hat trick in a 4-3 win over the Calgary Flames on Thursday night, superstar Toronto Maple Leafs forward Auston Matthews increased his league-leading goal total to a whopping 37 goals in just 42 games. That not only gives him a four-goal lead over the No. 2 scorer (Florida’s Sam Reinhart), but he has done it in two fewer games. It also puts him on pace for a goal total that the NHL has not seen in over 30 years.
At his current pace Matthews is on track to score 72 goals over an 82-game season. The NHL has not had a 70-goal season since Teemu Selanne and Alexander Mogilny both scored 76 goals during the 1992-93 season. It is also a mark that has only been reached 14 times in league history, with almost all of them occurring between the 1980 and 1993 seasons when goal-scoring in the NHL was at an all-time high. Only Phil Esposito’s 76 goals during the 1970-71 season came outside of that window.
Other than Reinhart, nobody else in the NHL has even cracked the 30-goal mark this season as of Friday.
Matthews has become one of the top goal-scorers in the NHL and has scored at least 40 goals in five of his first seven seasons in the league. The only two years he failed to reach that mark (2017-18 and 2018-19) were years where he was limited to just 62 and 68 games respectively. In both years he was on pace for well over 40 goals had he been healthy enough to play a full season.
It was just two years ago that he reached the 60-goal mark, making him one of just five players to hit that mark since 1995 (Connor McDavid, Alex Ovechkin, Steven Stamkos and David Pastrnak are the others). It also set a Maple Leafs franchise single-season record.
Now he is on track to steamroll past that number.
He is one of the few consistent bright spots on a Maple Leafs team that has underwhelmed through the first half of the season. They are still occupying a playoff spot, but have just the sixth-best record in the Eastern Conference and 11th-best record in the NHL. Expectations are significantly higher than that for this Toronto team given its big-money talent at the top of the roster. Matthews, Mitch Marner, John Tavares and William Nylander all own contracts that pay them more than $10 million per season and are under pressure to finally make noise in the playoffs. This core group has managed just a single playoff series win in seven years. The playoffs are what Maple Leafs fans care about, and if they don’t make a deep run, all of the individual goal totals are not going to mean anything to them.