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Matthews continuing to make his case as the next Ovechkin

Auston Matthews Auston Matthews - The Canadian Press

Auston Matthews, supernova.

The pride of San Ramon, Calif., is off to another blistering start in his eighth season with the Maple Leafs. For as much change as the Maple Leafs organization has gone through over the past six months, rest assured his six goals over the first two games is extremely welcomed in Toronto. Amidst the personnel attrition and less certainty over what this lineup can bring to the table, Matthews remains as reliable as ever.

What is so remarkable about Matthews is how dependable his offensive production has been over the years, a goal scorer whose contemporaries and parallels are more along the lines of Alexander Ovechkin – one of the two best scorers in the history of the league – and less so, well, everyone else.

It wasn’t lost on me that Matthews’ back-to-back hat tricks to start the 2023-24 season were greeted with something of a yawn – not dissimilar to the many ways Edmonton’s Connor McDavid has blown us away over the years, persistently setting a higher bar and turning otherwise incredible accomplishments into something fans and pundits have almost come to expect.

But six goals in a pair of games is extraordinary, even for a shooter the calibre of Matthews. In fact, if you look at every two-game sample of Matthews’ career, it’s the first time he’s scored so much in such little time:

While it’s remarkable that this was Matthews’ first time accomplishing such a feat, the data over the course of his career is extraordinary. Teams have only a 27 per cent chance of holding Matthews goalless over consecutive games, and 36 per cent of the time Matthews will score multiple goals over that two-game stretch. That is the textbook definition of consistent.

I mentioned that the search for comparables for Matthews is getting increasingly difficult, and that the name Ovechkin jumps out before most others. That in and of itself is a statement. But it’s not a parallel without substance.

Compare Matthews’ historical scoring rates over the first eight seasons in Toronto with that of Ovechkin over the modern statistical era (2007-23). It’s worth noting Ovechkin produced at these blistering rates in a lower-scoring environment than that of Matthews, but it’s also worth acknowledging Ovechkin is still playing and still producing at a very high rate – to the extent it’s easier to score goals league-wide, both are beneficiaries at the moment.

If you can find a meaningful difference between the two attackers, you have better eyes than me. If anything, Matthews is simply off to a better start to his career as a goal scorer than Ovechkin, which again is a tremendous statement to make.

But the difference between Matthews and Ovechkin, at least for now, is that Ovechkin has scored like this for decades. Save for a brief disappointing run under head coaches Dale Hunter and Adam Oates in the early 2010s, Ovechkin’s been a bastion of scoring consistency.

We talk about Ovechkin with true revere, especially after his Stanley Cup victory in 2018. Perhaps for Matthews to truly solidify his legacy, he needs to follow the same championship path. But there shouldn’t be any reservations treating Matthews like the player he is: one of the best goal scorers of this century already, and one who doesn’t look prepared to slow down any time soon.

Data via Natural Stat Trick,, Evolving Hockey, Hockey Reference