On Tuesday evening, Toronto Maple Leafs sniper Auston Matthews became just the third player to score 60 goals in a single season since the league implemented a salary cap back in 2005-06.
And he did so in style.
Serving as the most proficient goal scorer of the current era, the Leafs’ poster boy had somehow managed to go five games without a goal,
After hitting a stretch that saw him produce 51 goals in a span of just 50 games, the Leafs’ poster boy had somehow managed to go five games without scoring a single tally. Mind you, he still managed to collect five assists during that timespan.
So, for the most proficient scorer of the current era, hitting 60 goals was just another walk through the park. Earlier becoming the first Maple Leafs player to score 55 goals in a season, the Arizona product made easy work of the Red Wings on Tuesday.
Entering the game with the visiting Detroit Red Wings stuck at 58 goals on the season, the 24-year-old scored the opening goal back in the second period on a nifty play from in-tight, before finishing Detroit off with a power play wrist shot late in the game.
“It was pretty special, honestly,” Matthews said of his 60th marker post-game. “Just the reception from my teammates, the crowd, everything. It just kind of sends chills down your bones. It’s kind of hard to put into words.”
Matthews joined Alexander Ovechkin – who scored 65 goals in 2007-08 – and Steven Stamkos – who put up an even 60 in 2011-12 – as the only three players to have hit the 60-goal mark in the 21st century. He became just the 21st 60-goal scorer in league history, and the sixth in the past 30 seasons.
“It’s humbling,” Matthews said of Ovechkin and Stamkos. “It’s a big honour just to be in the same breath as those two guys, and what they’ve been able to accomplish in their careers. You know, I’m still striving to kind of be on that level. So, there’s a lot of work to be done.”
Due to a mix of injuries and suspension, Matthews has been limited to just 73 games this season. And with one game left, he hit that 60-goal mark in just 73 games, becoming the fastest player since Mario Lemieux did so in 62 games back in 1995-96.
Matthews, who wasn’t even on the earth back then, knows he owes all the credit to his parents for getting him to where he is today.
“You know, it’s hard not to think about a little bit of childhood memories, just all the sacrifices they made for me, and just the constant support and love from them,” he said. “I haven’t been able to speak to them yet, but I know I’ll talk to them when I get home. They mean a lot to me, and obviously I wouldn’t be here without them.”
Another supportive individual has been Matthews’ coach, Sheldon Keefe.
“The guys were really excited,” Keefe said of Matthews’ teammates. “The guys feel so happy for him, because he’s our leader. He does so many other things, and you want to see him get rewarded. And the guys also feel a part of it, as they should. … He gives so much to his game and to our team. It’s great for him to have that moment.”
Captain John Tavares scored the other goal for Toronto, while Jack Campbell made a 20-save shutout in the process. Currently sitting at 53-21-7 through 81 games, the Leafs have locked up second place in the Eastern Conference and home ice advantage through the opening round of the playoffs. They take on the Boston Bruins on Friday night.