After Saturday night’s game that saw the Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Montreal Canadiens by a score of 5-3, Mitch Marner couldn’t have summed it up better. His message was simple: “Get the puck to Mats. The guy’s on fire now.”
Marner’s Telling the Truth About Matthews
The fact is that Marner’s speaking the truth. Auston Matthews scored two goals – both on the power play – again last night and he now has registered 18 goals on the season to lead the NHL in goal scoring. Matthews also added two assists to help his Maple Leafs beat their historic rival the Canadiens on Saturday’s Hockey Night in Canada.
Marner didn’t do badly himself during the game. He added a goal and two assists. He’s now tied for second in the NHL scoring leader board with the Edmonton Oilers’ Leon Draisaitl with 30 points on the season. Both Draisaitl and Marner have more points than anyone else in the NHL not named Connor McDavid.
As far as last night’s game went, Travis Boyd and Alex Kerfoot also scored. And, Frederik Andersen for the most part looked strong in net and stopped 30 shots of 33. Morgan Rielly scored two assists, and the Maple Leafs now lead the NHL in points with 30 and improved their overall record to 14-3-2.
What’s Working for the Maple Leafs’ Twosome?
Matthews was clear about his team’s recipe for success. He noted, “The recipe for our success has been us competing and working hard. We’ve been focused on that, it’s been working. We’re winning games right now, which is the most important thing. As long as we’re winning, I’m happy, we’re all happy. We just want to continue that.”
Given the scoring week Matthews has had, his four-point night against the Canadiens shouldn’t be a surprise. He’s also showing that the name of the opponent doesn’t matter. His three previous games this past week were all against the Ottawa Senators; and, in those games, he scored two goals and an assist in Monday’s 6-5 overtime loss. He scored a goal in Wednesday’s 2-1 win. And, in Thursday’s 7-3 win he also scored four points with another two goals and two assists. He matched his best game of the week against a much-better Canadiens’ team.
With his four-point night against the Canadiens, that means Matthews has scored an incredible eight points in two games. He’s only the sixth player in Maple Leafs’ history to put up a 16-game points-scoring streak. For longtime Maple Leafs’ fans, that means he has two games to go before he catches current record-holders Darryl Sittler and Ed Olczyk.
Sheldon Keefe Notes: Don’t Forget About Marner
Maple Leafs’ head coach Sheldon Keefe added his perspective to Matthews’ exploits when he noted, ”But I think it’s also important to recognize the play of Mitch Marner here, and how he’s really teamed up with Auston. They’re pushing each other to new heights, and it’s been fun to watch.”
Speaking of Marner, he also had another high-scoring game by picking up a goal with two assists in Saturday’s 5-3 victory in Montreal. The twosome simply were too much for the Canadiens to handle. Together, they combined for three goals and four assists (for seven points). Given that they only took together five shots on net (Marner scored on his only shot on goal), they’re also scoring at a pretty incredible percentage.
That obviously has to do with their accuracy of their shots, and last night both young snipers seemed able to put the puck through any tiny space that future Hall of Fame goalie Carey Price gave them. It must have been a nightmare for Price, who at the least had to head home shaking his head.
It was the power point that did the Canadiens in last night. Both Marner’s assists were power-play assists. For the season, nine of his 21 assists have come with the man advantage.
Marner Has Had an Incredible Last Two Games
Marner also had a high-scoring week that, similar to Matthews, helped him move even higher on the NHL’s scoring leadership. Oddly, he only scored an assist during the two games early in the week against the Senators; however, he made up for that on Thursday’s game when he scored a goal and added three assists.
Combined with the Canadiens’ game, he’s now scored two goals and five assists in his last two games. February’s been good to Marner: he’s totalled four goals and 12 assists (for 16 points) in the eight games he played this month. For those who think plus-minus is a viable statistic as I do, he’s also had a plus-16 rating during those eight games as well.
Thinking About Matthews Current Scoring Streak
Matthews has scored an amazing 18 goals and 28 points in his 16-game streak. The question that’s popping up is whether he has a chance to reach 50 goals in 50 games, which would be an incredible accomplishment in this shortened and condensed season without the rest that a regular season usually affords.
He’s the first NHL player to score 18 goals in the first 18 games in the past 15 seasons. For his career, he’s now scored 175 goals in 300 regular-season games, which is the third-highest total in Maple Leafs’ history.
Matthews laid out his simple agenda, ”I want to score, I want to produce.”
But, Matthews also added, “I’ve just been trying to do the little things that help the team win and put the momentum back on our side. It’s more than just scoring goals.”
Can Matthews and Marner Beat McDavid and Draisaitl?
It’s going to be fun watching this North Division season unfold. The Oilers and the Maple Leafs will meet more often than they have in the past. That means fans of both teams will see their star players going against each other more often. That has to be a treat.
If you’re a Maple Leafs’ fan, the question is, can Matthews (29 points on the season) and Marner (30 points on the season) top the twosome of McDavid (37 points on the season) and Draisaitl (30 points on the season) before the season’s over?
Currently, the Oilers’ stars are ahead in the point-scoring totals by eight points – 67 to 59. However, the Oilers have played one more game on the season than the Maple Leafs. That just means that Matthews and Marner need another game like they played last night to tie.
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