Photo credit:Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Auston Matthews eyeing 40 goals this weekend as Maple Leafs open up back-to-back against Canucks
By Joseph Zita1 month ago
The losing streak of four games finally ended on Thursday night for the Toronto Maple Leafs, as they defeated the Calgary Flames, 4-3, in comeback fashion after overcoming an early 2-0 deficit in the first period. The comeback began and ended with Auston Matthews, as he scored not only his 35th of the season but his 36th and 37th, netting his fourth hat-trick of the season – 11th of his career – and giving him a four-goal cushion in the Rocket Richard race ahead of Florida’s Sam Reinhart (33).
It’s honestly crazy that he is sitting on 37 goals in 42 games (he missed one game due to illness) and is on pace (71) to crush his career-high in goals (60 in 73 games), which he set in his MVP season during the 2021-22 campaign, when he took home the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy, Hart Memorial Trophy and Ted Lindsay Award.
The 2024 NHL All-Star weekend hasn’t even happened yet, and the team has four more games to play before heading into the break, so is it absurd to think Auston Matthews might reach the 40-goal mark before All-Star weekend? Most certainly not. There’s even a legitimate case that he could hit the 40-goal mark this weekend when Toronto plays its back-to-back against the Canucks and Kraken.
Matthews’ goal splits against every team in the league vary, but the two teams he is set to play against this weekend have had trouble keeping him off the scoresheet, especially as the one scoring the goals. According to Statmuse.com, his career numbers against Vancouver are ridiculous. In 22 games, he has scored 18 goals, which includes his rare zero-goal performance against them from earlier this season. And although Seattle is relatively new to the league, he has only played them five times, but in those five games, he has scored five goals, including a two-goal performance against them last season in Seattle.
I’m not guaranteeing another hat-trick from the best goal-scorer in the league or a two-goal outing and a single goal in the other game, but I’m also not, not guaranteeing that. We have witnessed him do incredible things throughout his career, especially over the last three seasons, so reaching 40 goals before the All-Star break or this weekend wouldn’t shock me, despite how crazy it sounds.
If he were to reach 40 goals this weekend, he’d need at least a multi-goal effort in one of the two games to go along with a single tally in the other. But luckily for him, multi-goal games haven’t been challenging this season. Matthews has recorded 12 already this season, which tops the league in that category and is four ahead of Nikita Kucherov (8), according to Statmuse.com.
Toronto Maple Leafs’ lineup:
Pontus Holmberg – Auston Matthews – Mitch Marner
Tyler Bertuzzi – John Tavares – William Nylander
Matthew Knies – Max Domi – Calle Jarnkrok
Bobby McMann – David Kampf – Noah Gregor
Morgan Rielly – TJ Brodie
Simon Benoit – Jake McCabe
Mark Giordano – Timothy Liljegren
One lineup note: It is the third consecutive game that Nick Robertson is projected to be a scratch and the seventh time in the last ten games in January. I have no insider information, but it wouldn’t shock me if Nick Robertson is getting extremely frustrated with this and would like Brad Treliving and the Maple Leafs to find him a new home to play in this season. But if that was the case, wouldn’t/shouldn’t Sheldon Keefe want to showcase him instead of having him in the press box almost every night?
Vancouver Canucks’ lineup:
Elias Pettersson – JT Miller – Brock Boeser
Dakota Joshua – Teddy Blueger – Conor Garland
Ilya Mikheyev – Pius Suter – Andrei Kuzmenko
Nils Hoglander – Nils Aman – Sam Lafferty
Quinn Hughes – Filip Hronek
Carson Soucy – Tyler Myers
Nikita Zadorov – Ian Cole
Martin Jones (TOR) vs Thatcher Demko (VAN)
Sportsnet, 7:00 pm ET/4:00 pm PT
(Stats from Hockey-Reference.com)
(Projected lineups from DailyFaceoff.com)
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