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By The Numbers: Matthews, Maple Leafs struggles highlighted by goal drought

Auston Matthews Toronto Maple Leafs Auston Matthews - The Canadian Press

The Toronto Maple Leafs have struggled since returning to North America from Sweden on a four-game winning streak.

Chief among the struggles has been the lack of production from star centre Auston Matthews, who only has a goal and two assists in his past eight games.

Matthews, 26, began the season on a torrid pace, registering 13 goals and 18 points, including three hat tricks, through the team's first 12 games.

The 6-foot-3 centre looked like he was well on his way to a third-career Rocket Richard Trophy until going cold.

During his hot start, the Maple Leafs were using Matthews' offence as a way to cover up some of the teams other deficiencies that that have held the team to only five regulation wins this season.

In Matthews' four multi-goal games, the team allowed 20 goals and put themselves in three multi-goal deficits, coming back to win two of them thanks to Matthews' heroics.

When Matthews went cold in mid-November, the Leafs were able to turn to William Nylander to drive the offence in the midst of his 17-game point streak.

Now that Nylander has cooled off, Matthews and star winger Mitch Marner are still struggling offensively, and the team has sustained significant injuries to the defence corps, head coach Sheldon Keefe is left searching for answers on both sides of the ice.


Scoring in bunches

Despite his drought, Matthews is still tied for fourth in league scoring and three goals off Vancouver Canucks' winger Brock Boeser for the league lead.

But, Matthews has been a volume scorer, only recording goals in seven of the team's 20 games this season.

This is a common theme among the league's top-five goal scorers this season. Boeser has only scored in 10 of the Canucks' 23 games, while Tampa Bay Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov and Winnipeg Jets forward Kyle Connor have scored in nine games.

Of the NHL's top five-goal scorers, Florida Panthers forward Sam Reinhart's goals are the most spread out, recording a goal in 11 of his 22 games.

“You might be asking yourself: Is [Matthews] a volume scorer and should there be cause for concern?,” TSN’s Director of Scouting Craig Button said. “Absolutely not, he’s the NHL’s best goal scorer. When we look at the process, Matthews is in the top three in slot shots, inner-slot shots, forecheck chances, and cycle chances.

“You’d like to see him score on more chances but everything that’s required to be an elite goal scorer, Matthews is doing it better than anyone else in the league. The goals are going to go in because he does everything right to score goals.”

NHL Top Goal Scorers

Name Games Played Goals Games with Goals
Brock Boeser (VAN) 23 17 10
Sam Reinhart (FLA)  22 15 11
Nikita Kucherov (TB)  22 15 9
 Auston Matthews (TOR) 20 14 7
 Kyle Connor (WPG) 21 14 9


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Primed to break out

Matthews and the Maple Leafs have a good opportunity for an offensive breakout as they host the Seattle Kraken on Thursday.

The Kraken enter Wednesday's game in fifth place in the Pacific Division with an 8-10-5 record and have allowed 82 goals against, third worst in the NHL.

Seattle have also lost their last two games, giving up nine goals in the process.

“Good teams don’t lose three in a row,” Kraken forward Pierre-Edouard Bellemare told reporters on Thursday. “We haven’t been really consistent in the last two games so we’re going have to be hungry tonight. It’s a tough barn to get two points out of and they have a lot of weapons. Every shift is going to have to be a life-or-death situation.”

In four career games against the Kraken, Matthews has five goals and eight points, including two multi-goal games.

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