How Auston Matthews is scoring at better than a 70-goal pace

Shawn McKenzie caught up with Toronto Maple Leafs' Auston Matthews to discuss scoring 50 in his hometown, and credits family and teammates for his milestone night.

Auston Matthews made NHL history on Wednesday evening. In front of his hometown crowd, Matthews eclipsed the 50-goal mark in his 54th game, becoming the fastest U.S.-born player to hit that number in a season. He shattered the previous record of 62 games, which he shared with Kevin Stevens of the 1992-93 Pittsburgh Penguins.

Matthews’ average of 0.94 goals per game puts him on pace for 76, which would be the highest total since Alexander Mogilny and Teemu Selanne both did it in 1992-93.

As he pursues that lofty goal, Matthews has overpowered opposing goaltenders with his one-timer. He has scored a career-high 18 times off that shot this season. His previous best was 17 in 2019-20.

The one-timer was not part of Matthews’ arsenal early in his career. In his first three seasons, Matthews scored 11 of his 111 goals that way. Only 8.5 per cent of his total shot attempts (109 of 1,286) were one-timers. Over the past five seasons, though, that has increased to 22.7 per cent (565 of 2,494), including 22.4 per cent this year (95 of 424).

Unlike some of the league’s most well-known users of the one-timer, Matthews does not confine himself to one area. Whereas Alex Ovechkin and Mika Zibanejad favour the left circle, for example, Matthews has scored from multiple locations.

Matthews has been deadly accurate with his one-timer this season, scoring on 18.9 per cent of his attempts (18 of 95). By comparison, he converted just 6.5 per cent of his one-timer attempts last season into goals (9 of 139).

The biggest difference is that Matthews is setting up closer to the net, with 65.3 per cent of his one-timer attempts coming from the slot, up significantly from 43.9 per cent last season.

It took Matthews only nine games to go from the 40- to 50-goal mark. With 27 games left in the Toronto Maple Leafs’ regular season, a 70-goal campaign is very much in play.

“We know by now that he is an exceptional player,” Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe recently told reporters. “The year he got 60 (in 2021-22) he went on a tear at the end of the season. At this point, it seems he has been playing at that level all season. It is exceptional. There is not much else to say.”

All stats via Sportlogiq

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