Auston Matthews knocking on the door of 50 goals again

auston matthews
Mar 27, 2022; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs forward Auston Matthews (34) celebrates his empty net goal against the Florida Panthers during the third period at Scotiabank Arena. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Auston Matthews will be out to become the fourth Toronto player with a 50-goal season in franchise history when the Maple Leafs play the visiting Winnipeg Jets on Thursday.

Matthews scored his 49th of the season Tuesday in Toronto’s 6-4 road victory over the Boston Bruins.

The last Maple Leafs player with a 50-goal season was Hall of Famer Dave Andreychuk, who scored 53 in 1993-94. Rick Vaive, who had three 50-goal seasons for Toronto, set the team record with 54 goals in 1981-82. Gary Leeman netted 51 goals for Toronto in 1989-90.

Auston Matthews looking at another 50 goal season

“It’s not really something I really think about,” Matthews said before the game in Boston. “Honestly, I just try to take it day by day. That kind of stuff has a way of working itself out.”

Matthews’ power-play goal in the second period on Tuesday gave Toronto a 5-1 lead.

“As long as I’m just taking care of myself, making sure I’m playing the right way on both sides of the puck, obviously we have some really good players and our chemistry has gotten better and better as the season’s gone on. And we’ve just found, I guess, a recipe for success within our work ethic and competitiveness on both sides of the puck. So as far as (50 goals) goes, it’s not really something I’m too focused in on.”

Auston Matthews via Toronto Star
auston matthews 50
Jan 31, 2022; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs forward Auston Matthews (34) celebrates scoring his second goal against New Jersey Devils with defenseman Morgan Rielly (44) in the first period at Scotiabank Arena. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

The Maple Leafs are coming off a convincing win against an old nemesis in Boston, but it came at a cost. Goaltender Petr Mrazek sustained a groin injury early in the first period and was replaced by Erik Kallgren, who allowed three goals on 26 shots.

“It’s tough,” Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said. “Petr has been getting some traction and had been playing well. We don’t know the severity of (the injury). We will get a greater sense of what the situation is in the coming days, but it looks like he is going to miss some time.”

No. 1 goaltender Jack Campbell is close to returning from a rib injury.

Toronto also lost two defensemen in the second period. Justin Holl was hit on the head with a shot in the second period and left the ice bleeding. Ilya Lyubushkin exited the game after being punched by Taylor Hall, who had been crunched into the side boards. Hall received a roughing minor and on Wednesday was fined $5,000.

Jets trying to stay in playoff hunt

The Jets, who will be without Kyle Connor and Nate Schmidt for the second straight game on Thursday, defeated the host Buffalo Sabres 3-2 in a shootout on Wednesday. Connor, the team leader in goals (41) and points (82), and offensive defenseman Schmidt are out for at least three games after they tested positive for COVID-19.

“Eventually, it was going to catch up,” Jets interim coach Dave Lowry said. “Unfortunately, it happened to us today.”

Connor had played in all 67 games this season until Wednesday, and he has career bests in goals and assists (41).

“We’ve had other top guys out,” Lowry said. “Yes, you’re disappointed that he’s not going to be able to play, but somebody else will have to step up and what it does now is it creates an opportunity for someone else to come in and take advantage.”

The Jets overcame the absences at Buffalo as Blake Wheeler scored in regulation and had the decisive goal in the shootout. Connor Hellebuyck made 35 saves for the victory.

–Field Level Media