Auston Matthews’ Slow Start Shouldn’t Concern Maple Leafs Fans

After a 60-goal, 106-point season where he won the league MVP, many were expecting another repeat performance from Toronto Maple Leafs superstar Auston Matthews. And rightfully so as he’s the face of the franchise. 

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However, Matthews didn’t quite have the start many had hoped for. The team itself was dealing with injuries and they struggled a lot in the month of October where they had the 27th ranked offense in goals per game with 2.70. Matthews himself was in a bit of a funk as well as he wasn’t quite himself, dealing with bad puck luck. Many started to wonder what was wrong with the team’s star player. 

Auston Matthews Toronto Maple Leafs
Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo by Gerry Angus/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Well, no need to worry as Matthews appears to be back on track as he’s starting to heat up after a strong November. Whether he finds the score sheet or not, Matthews does an excellent job in helping the team make an impact. Even if he’s on a cold streak, it shouldn’t last long as he’s known to always bounce back and be a lethal force offensively. 

Slow Starts Are Not a Concern

If we go back to the start of last season, Matthews had only two points in six games after returning from wrist surgery. He then followed that up with nine goals and 17 points in November. This season we kind of see a similar trend in regards to his early season production. Matthews alone had only eight points in 10 games when the team struggled offensively, but followed that up with nine goals and 10 assists in 15 games. 

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Even with the slow start last season, Matthews quickly climbed the goal scoring chart and finished with 106 points. Similarly, Matthews is rebounding from his slow start this season and is quickly climbing the leaderboards. We saw during the Maple Leafs recent road trip where he started to find his groove again with his shot and production. We shouldn’t be surprised at this resurgence with Matthews.

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We shouldn’t be surprised at this resurgence with Matthews. With his shot and offensive skillset, it was bound to happen. The chances he is getting in the high danger area are high as he has a chances for percentage of 57.38. His production and numbers did start to increase after he was reunited with William Nylander

He’s reached five or more shots a game 10 times and with an outstanding 16.1 career shooting percentage, his current one at 11.5 is going to rise considerably. You could chalk up this season’s start to the fact that teams are paying closer attention to him defensively, taking him away as the shooting option. Though that has opened the door for John Tavares, Mitch Marner and Nylander to jump in on the production as it should be.

Auston Matthews Toronto Maple Leafs
Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

Defensively, Matthews is showing signs of not just being known as a goal scorer, but making an impact in transition or within his own end. With a minimum of 15 games played while he’s given the puck away 26 times this season, he’s still among the leaders in takeaways with 26 (fifth overall). He’s also got a decent goal against per 60 rate of 1.86 when he’s on the ice. He’s always there on the backcheck and breaking up plays. That alone is a sign that he’s still making an impact regardless of his production. 

Dual Offensive Threat

It’s clear that what makes Matthews a special player is his goal scoring abilities. When he isn’t scoring, everyone starts asking questions like “Should the Maple Leafs be concerned with the lack of production?”

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In short, no. It would be ridiculous to think otherwise as he’s been dominant every single season since he entered the league. When Matthews wasn’t scoring at the start, he was an extremely effective as a playmaker and setup for everyone, either at even strength or on the power play. With 15 assists this season, he’s on pace for 46– which would also be the first time he would have more assists than goals in a season. 

While he’s taken advantage of shooting the puck, he has no problem passing the puck as he can be just as deceptive. A prime example is the Nylander goal above. Matthews evades pressure and while he loses possession, he’s able to recover the puck, spot Nylander in the middle and it’s a goal for the Maple Leafs.

Related: Mitch Marner on the Cusp of Maple Leafs Record with Point Streak

If teams are keeping a closer eye on Matthews, that instantly leaves an opportunity open for everyone else on the ice to get open and be ready for a pass. That isn’t a good thing for the opposition as the Maple Leafs top players are finding the score sheet easily. While we focus on his shot, he’s still a strong and effective passer as he’s able to break free from pressure and make quick and timely plays. 

New Mindset

Even if Matthews doesn’t reach production from previous seasons, it’s not the end all be all.The biggest thing that’s evident this season is his mentality. Earlier this season, Matthews made it a point to say that he’s not focussed on repeating his goal production or on individual accolades, but doing whatever it takes for the team to be successful.

Auston Matthews Toronto Maple Leafs
Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

After another disappointing playoff loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning, winning is on Matthews’ mind. To take that next step and finally break the trend of playoff losses is a sign that Matthews means business. If he’s able to hit the mark, great. That would be a bonus. The confidence he has and the fact that winning is all that he’s thinking about shows his commitment to the team.  

While it might have been a bit concerning to Matthews once again starting this season slow, it wasn’t going to last for long. It was only a matter of time before he breaks out offensively and regained his form as an elite offensive producer. While others stepped up during the “slump”, he just makes this offense even more potent when he’s producing. 

Statistics from Natural Stat Trick, Hockey Reference and NHL.

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