Which goals put Austin Mathews in a league of his own?
There was a time in this same hockey season, though now it seems impossible, where Bourne Real Kuiper’s conversation was about whether Austin Mathews was far behind Alex Ovechkin in chasing this year’s Rocket Richard Trophy winning goal. Mathews misses the first few games of the Toronto Maple Leafs following a wrist method that may or may not contribute to October as seen below. Note the goals and points.
He scored once in October, and sat a long way behind Alex Ovechkin, who walked like this in October:
That is nine goals in eight matches.
With Matthews scoring eight goals at the time, I’m proud to say that our show didn’t embarrass itself, because of the ridiculous amount of emphasis we had on the season we had to go through, and how Matthews was prone to scoring.
His recent “run” or “bunch”, if you will, has scored 49 times in the last 49 games, which has increased his lead to six goals over Leon DrySite following Rocket Richard. Before the Leafs last road trip, Draisaitl was even able to draw in every 50 where Matthews scored six times in four matches a week.
After watching each of Matthews’ goals on the way to his second consecutive Rocket Richard Trophy, I was looking to find out one thing: which goals put him above and beyond the other greats? Hell, most players don’t score 20 in a single season, so it’s safe to say that most guys can’t score as many goals as he does. But I wanted to know what makes him better than the other elite finishers in the NHL.
I’ll go through my list of reasons, then I’ll ask you to watch the final video. This is a seven-second replay clip for each of his goals last season, which is a family-sized bag of video chips. I say “bag of chips” because you don’t sit down to swallow the whole thing, but once you start, it’s very easy to “one more” yourself to plow through everything.
Austin Mathews has not scored 60 times (or his final total this season) playing for the Arizona Coyotes 2021-21. This package includes a few plays where you are reminded, “Oh, well, an all-time NHL season can’t happen without the help of a team sport,” and they’re in Mitch Marner’s play and Power Play, John Tavares.
At least twice, Tavares pulls a twist from the wreckage of a scramble and slips a neatly to Matthews, who is waiting at the back door to hammer a house. And of course, Matthews’ elite ability to slip into a soft spot is worth it only if he’s playing with someone who can find him in a soft spot like Marner.
Which brings us …
Rear door tip-in
Marner’s incredible ability to draw attention to himself – despite not being a deadly deadly shooting threat – is almost unparalleled in the league, much like Prime Scott Gomez. He hangs on so long that defenders have to respect him, and Matthews added another element to his scoring this year, where he simply goes into the net with his stick on the ice and says “go ahead and try to move me.”
His nice hands on these redirects can be replicated by other players around the league, only they can’t use them, because they don’t have the size of Matthews and the luxury that comes with being almost immobile …
… which is related to the next theme.
There are a few goals where Mathews either pushes Pak with another stick, or uses his giant frame to turn Pak away from the opposition. He’s been a big strong man in the league, but sometimes it takes players a while to figure out how to leverage their frame, and Matthews has definitely decided to lean further towards his advantage this season.
And I know you know it, but …
I don’t know if anyone will ever again dominate the NHL as Ovechkin did with his one-time bomb. Even when goalkeepers know where it is coming from and where it is going, they cannot keep up with its fastballs historically.
Matthews’ shots are so different that you have no idea where he’s going, when he’s coming, or how he’s going to shoot it. His teammates have talked about his ability to keep the goaltenders out of balance and know where the goalkeepers have to shoot in uncomfortable places.
There are at least a few twists in this role where if they shoot everyone else like the best ball tournament in the league, no one else can get them. There’s a lot to pull apart, so just watch and enjoy the whole season of his scoring. He is unique, and with some (health) luck and longevity, will become one of the best goal-scorers of all time in the game.