Auston Matthews breaks longstanding NHL record en route to 70 goals

Ryan Smitheram
April 10, 2024  (1:24 PM)

Auston Matthews focused ahead of puck drop
Photo credit: Kevin Allen, USA Today Sports

Auston Matthews has four games to score four goals to reach 70 on the season, but he has already set a new record among active players with his 66th goal of the season, surpassing Alex Ovechkin last night.

In what was called a 'mature' game from the Toronto Maple Leafs in a 5-2 win over the New Jersey Devils last night, Matthews continued to chase the 70-goal plateau scoring in the third period. The goal gave him 66 on the season and an outside chance at being the first player to score 70 goals since Teemu Selanne and Alexander Mogilny each scored 76 in the 1992-1993 season. Not only did Matthews inch closer to 70, but he became the first player since the 1995-96 season (Mario Lemieux, 69) to score more than 65 goals in a season, breaking Ovechkin's record among active players when he scored 65 in the 2007-2008 campaign.
Matthews joined some elite company when he scored his 66th last night, becoming just the 11th player in NHL history to score 66 or more goals in a season. He joins the likes of Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Mike Bossy, Lanny McDonald, Jari Kurri, Bernie Nicholls, Brett Hull, and the aforementioned Selanne and Mogilny as the only players on that exclusive list.
When Matthews was asked about breaking Ovechkin's active goal scoring record last night, the 26-year-old was humble in his response.
"It's cool. He's obviously who he is and what he's done for the game, and obviously what he's accomplished. So it's a big honor just to be in the same sentence."

What does Matthews think of his teammates giving up opportunities to get him to 70?

"I find when you really, I don't know, maybe overthink it and kind of almost want it too much, it almost doesn't go your way. So I just try to approach every game the same. And obviously, we're winding down here the last couple of games, and just want to make sure myself individually and as a team, we're doing the right things night in, night out on both sides of the puck that is gonna translate here in the postseason."

His teammates want to see him reach the number badly, as Nick Robertson, who also scored last night, noted.
"He's a special player, obviously we want him to get to 70 and for him to keep going like that and it's good for him to find the back of the net. It seems like he scores every game so hopefully he gets to 70."

Matthew Knies, who has spent much of the season playing next to Matthews and who looked up to him as a kid echoed much of the same message that Robertson had sent.
"It's still crazy. Sixty was crazy. Sixty-five, you kind of look at in awe. It's pretty incredible, what he can do. Cross my fingers, I want to see 70."

There is no doubt that Matthews is trying his best to get there. He's fired 85 shots on goal in the last 19 games and has 32 in his last 7 games.

Does Matthews have a chance to win the Hart and Selke Trophies?

Matthews is on the outside looking in when it comes to the Hart trophy race right now given that Nikita Kucherov, Nathan MacKinnon, Artemi Panarin, David Pastrnak and Connor McDavid all have a whole lot more points than him. However, he is currently 13 goals ahead of his next closest competitor for the Rocket Richard trophy in Florida Panthers forward Sam Reinhart. Should Matthews hit the 70-goal mark, it will sure vault him into the highest tier of consideration for the Hart Trophy, simply because of how long it might be until we see another player reach that milestone. It wouldn't be the first time Matthews wins the Hart without finishing at or near the top in points as he previously won the award on the heels of a 60-goal season in the 2021-2022 season with just 106 points to McDavid's 123 points.
While his chances of winning the Hart Trophy aren't great, he does have a real chance to win his first Selke Trophy, awarded to the NHL's best defensive forward. Obviously, when you think of Matthews you think of his offensive prowess first, but defensively, he is one of the best in the game and it is often hard to imagine a 66-goal scorer part of the conversation.
We recently touched on why he should be a frontrunner for the Selke, given the fact that his defensive numbers are superior to the other leading scorers in the Hart race. Those numbers are backed up by the 2022-2023 Selke Trophy runner-up, Nico Hischier, who believes that despite his offensive numbers, Matthews should be nominated for the Selke based on his tremendous defensive play this season.
"One hundred per cent (Matthews should be in the Selke conversation]. He's that kind of guy that doesn't give a lot up for the team too. His stick work, stripping pucks away, that's all on a high level. He should definitely be in there. It's always hard when you score 65 goals to be the best defensive forward, but he definitely deserves to be in there."

Devils interim head coach Travis Green agreed with his Captain.
"The thing about Auston is, he's a big centre that controls the game in many ways. Usually, guys that score that many goals are just pure goal scorers. It's well known he brings a lot of other things to the game."

With only four games to go, it would be quite the story for him to reach the 70-goal milestone, but as he said, he is more concerned with tightening up the little things that will translate to the playoffs and hopefully help the Leafs go on a lengthy playoff run. Again, further evidence of his defensive mindset and another reason why he should be nominated for the Selke Trophy as well.
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Auston Matthews breaks longstanding NHL record en route to 70 goals

Will Auston Matthews win the Hart Trophy and/or the Selke Trophy this season?

Hart6017.5 %
Selke7521.9 %
Both11232.7 %
Neither9527.8 %
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