Auston Matthews Matches Alex Ovechkin: Will He Eclipse 70 Goals?

Auston Matthews #34 of the Toronto Maple Leafs

Getty Auston Matthews #34 of the Toronto Maple Leafs

Will there be a day in which Toronto Maple Leafs forward Auston Matthews plays hockey without making history?

Matthews became the 13th player in NHL history to score 65 goals in a season on Monday, April 8, matching Alex Ovechkin‘s tally from 16 years ago and becoming the first player to reach those heights since the Washington Capitals winger did it.

Matthews’ goal put the Leafs ahead on the scoreboard in their game against the Pittsburgh Penguins with Toronto taking a 2-1 lead early in the third period. The Leafs would then win the game in overtime thanks to a goal by Jake McCabe assisted by Matthews.

“(Witnessing Matthews chasing 70 goals) It’s incredible,” McCabe told reporters after the game on April 8. “We’re in awe just as much as you guys are watching.”

With the goal and the assist against the Penguins on Monday, Matthews now has passed the 100-point barrier getting up to 102 through 75 games played this season.

Auston Matthews Is Approaching Scoring 70 Goals ‘The Right Way’

As the NHL enters the final two weeks of regular-season play, things are heating up all across the league, including teams fighting for playoff berths and players trying to clinch individual awards and accolades.

While it is true that Matthews is not in what feels like a three-man race for the Hart Trophy award, including Connor McDavid, Nikita Kucherov, and Nathan MacKinnon, the Maple Leafs forward has already done enough to win the Rocket Richard Trophy award as the top goalscorer of the NHL this season.

Matthews leads the NHL with 65 goals, 12 more than Sam Reinhart (53) in second place and 13 more than Zach Hyman (52) in third position. Nobody else in the league has even reached 50 entering the April 9 slate of games.

That being said, Matthews is hunting for bigger prey: becoming the first player in more than three decades to score 70 goals in a single season.

That, however, doesn’t mean he’s exclusively goal-hunting and hurting his team’s results by doing it.

“[Matthews] loves to score goals, but he’s not putting that ahead of the team,” Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe told reporters on April 8 after beating the Penguins. “He’s going about it the right way. He’s trusting that his ability is gonna shine through in the end and he’s gonna be able to score.

“However [the chase for 70 goals] works out in the end, I think he’ll be content with that. He should be proud of what he’s done and how he’s handled himself the whole way through it.”

Auston Matthews Expected to Eclipse Alex Ovechkin’s 65-Goal Season

Even if Matthews doesn’t quite get to 70 goals scored when the regular season is over, it’s not that he won’t be making history anyway.

There have only been 25 players to score 65 or more goals in an NHL season. Since 1996, only two players have done it: Alex Ovechkin and since April 8, Matthews.

Matthews is now on pace to finish the year with 69 goals, one short of the long-chased 70-figure.

It took Matthews a couple of periods to finally bag his 65th goal of the year, but by doing so he put the Leafs up by one over Pittsburgh on Monday’s matchup. The Leafs, however, would allow the Penguins to mount a short-circuited comeback by tying the game and sending it to overtime. Once there, Toronto won the game 3-2 and earned 2 more points.

This season is the second one in Matthews’ career in which he’s scored 60-plus goals after doing so two years ago in the 2022 campaign. He won the Hart Trophy as the NHL’s MVP back then, but unless he gets to 70 goals this season it’s hard to envision him hoisting the same award come June.

“You know, 60 was crazy. 65 it’s–you kind of look at it in awe,” Matthew Knies told reporters after the game. “It’s pretty incredible what he can do.

“Cross my fingers. I want to see 70, for sure!”

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