Maple Leafs Auston Matthews Is Back, Or Is He?
After scoring a single goal in his first seven games, the Toronto Maple Leafs’ star player Auston Matthews potted five goals in his next five games. Matthews also played a pivotal role in the recent seven points in a four-game stretch that saw the Maple Leafs defeat two of the NHL’s best three teams and get a point in a third game.
All that success was despite playing those three games in four nights with travel. Matthews had three goals and six points in those four games.
Related: Esposito: The Trade That Shaped the Boston Bruins
Back when Matthews was struggling, we wrote that once he got rolling it would fix a lot of what ailed the Maple Leafs. That appears to have happened. Despite losing two games in a row, the team is playing much better overall. Matthews has a respectable six goals and fourteen points in fifteen games. It’s not the pace he played at last season when he scored 60 goals, but he’s showing signs of regaining his game.
Matthews Continues to Struggle in One Area – Five-on-Five
There is still one area where Matthews has been struggling. That’s in his five-on-five play. Matthews has two goals and two assists at five-on-five this season. Even on his own team, he’s tied with Nick Robertson, Denis Malgin, and Michael Bunting with four five-on-five points.
Interestingly enough, the player who leads the team in five-on-five scoring is Matthews’ most common linemate, Mitch Marner. Marner has three goals and seven assists for ten points at five-on-five. Second on the team, with three goals and four assists for seven points is David Kampf. William Nylander (with six points) and John Tavares (with five points) are third and fourth respectively.
Matthews Has Excelled with the Man Advantage
Where Matthews has excelled is on the power play. He has four goals and has added four assists for a total of eight points with the man advantage. That’s second only to John Tavares, who has five goals and four assists for nine points.
Related: Maple Leafs Commentary: Austin Matthews By the Eye Test
If we look at Matthews’ goals and points per 60 minutes at five-on-five this season and compare them to his past output we see the following.
|Season||Goals Per 60||Points Per 60|
This chart shows that Matthews, at five-on-five, is scoring at only 25 percent off the pace he’s scored during the past two seasons. His point production is one-third of what it has been in the past two seasons. Previous to this season, his worst season was 2018-19 when he scored 1.35 per 60 minutes played. That’s still almost three times the rate he has scored to this point this season.
Latest News & Highlights
If we do a comparison of some of Matthews’ on-ice underlying stats and compare them to his last two seasons, they show a few things.
|Shot Attempts per 60||56.8||70.1||65.0|
|Shots per 60||31.4||38.3||30.3|
|Scoring Chances per 60||35.9||41.5||37.3|
|High Danger Chances per 60||15.4||16.7||15.9|
|Goals per 60||3.74||4.49||2.02|
|Expected Goals per 60||3.07||3.61||3.32|
In every category, with the exception of actual Goals For, Matthews has numbers better than two season ago. However, they are not as good as last season’s numbers.
If we focus on Goals per 60 and Expected Goals per 60, we see that his Goals per 60 are down by 46 percent from two years ago and 51 percent from last season. But, his Expected Goals are up 10 percent from two seasons ago and down just 10 percent from last season.
Related: Matthews Goal Scoring Is More Impressive Than Just the Numbers
The second chart shows that for the most part, when Matthews is on the ice at five-on-five, the Maple Leafs are generating shot attempts, shots, scoring chances, and high-danger chances similar to what they have in the past two seasons. The team is also generating comparable expected goals. It’s their actual goals that are down.
Looking at Shooting Percentage and PDO
[Note: PDO is the combination of on-ice shooting percentage and on-ice save percentage. Over a period of time, a player’s PDO traditionally moves towards 1. As a predictive stat, a player under 1 will, over time, usually improve. A player over 1 will, over time, will usually regress.]
Looking at Shooting Percentage and PDO, this chart shows that Matthews’ shooting percentage is down by over 5 percent from both of his previous two seasons. He was above 1 in PDO in both of the last two seasons. This season he’s below 1.
The Scoring Prognosis for Matthews Moving Forward
All the above statistics point to one thing. Matthews’ numbers will see improvement in his five-on-five scoring over the remainder of this season.
He’s creating shots, scoring chances, and high-danger chances at approximately the same level as he has the past two seasons. His expected goals are also on par with his past two years. However, his actual goals, his shooting percentage, and his PDO are way down this season.
Everything points to Matthews eventually returning to form and scoring at the rate we have come to expect of him. Maple Leafs’ fans can only hope that it happens sooner than later.
Related: How to Talk Like a Hockey Player
(Statistics are taken from Naturalstattrick.com)
[Note: I want to thank long-time Maple Leafs’ fan Stan Smith for collaborating with me on this post. Stan’s Facebook profile can be found here.]
The Old Prof (Jim Parsons, Sr.) taught for more than 40 years in the Faculty of Education at the University of Alberta. He’s a Canadian boy, who has two degrees from the University of Kentucky and a doctorate from the University of Texas. He is now retired on Vancouver Island, where he lives with his family. His hobbies include playing with his hockey cards and simply being a sports fan – hockey, the Toronto Raptors, and CFL football (thinks Ricky Ray personifies how a professional athlete should act).
If you wonder why he doesn’t use his real name, it’s because his son – who’s also Jim Parsons – wrote for The Hockey Writers first and asked Jim Sr. to use another name so readers wouldn’t confuse their work.
Because Jim Sr. had worked in China, he adopted the Mandarin word for teacher (老師). The first character lǎo (老) means “old,” and the second character shī (師) means “teacher.” The literal translation of lǎoshī is “old teacher.” That became his pen name. Today, other than writing for The Hockey Writers, he teaches graduate students research design at several Canadian universities.
He looks forward to sharing his insights about the Toronto Maple Leafs and about how sports engages life more fully. His Twitter address is https://twitter.com/TheOldProf