June 7, 2023

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. 

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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. 

Auston Matthews Toronto Maple Leafs
Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

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
2016/17 1.55 2.17
2017/18 1.68 2.90
2018/19 1.35 2.76
2019/20 1.56 2.34
2020/21 1.94 3.05
2021/22 1.94 3.37
2022/23 0.50 1.00

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.  

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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.   

Statistics 2020-21 2021-22 2022-23
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.]

Statistics 2020-21 2021-22 2022-23
Shooting Percentage 11.89 11.73 6.67
PDO 1.039 1.002 0.977

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. 

Auston Matthews Toronto Maple Leafs
Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

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. 

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(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.]

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