It has been a historically significant season in the NHL. There is potential for two players to hit the 100-assist mark. Connor McDavid did it already. Nikita Kucherov could join him. Multiple players, Sam Reinhart, Zach Hyman, and Nathan MacKinnon, have all hit 50-plus goals. McDavid, Kucherov, and MacKinnon all over 130 points. And then there is Auston Matthews and his pursuit of 70 goals.

The NHL has not had a 70-goal season since 1993. That year, Teemu Selanne and Alexander Mogilny each scored 76 goals. Matthews is entering the season’s final game, trying to reach 70 goals.

Matthews had multiple chances to hit the mark on Tuesday night against the Florida Panthers. It appeared he was finally realizing the gravity of the situation. Matthews was gripping the stick and trying to score whenever he was on the ice.

Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe called Matthews’ pursuit of 70 goals a distraction on Saturday after the team’s loss to Detroit.

“That’s a major distraction. It doesn’t help us, what we’re trying to accomplish on the ice. But it’s exciting,” Sheldon Keefe said of Matthews’ pursuit of 70. “I get it. And it’s– especially when he gets to 69, you can see it. It’s really– it’s growing, anticipating. And now you’re feeding it. I’m feeding it. I want it to happen. But I wanted it for the fans. But I’m glad the game’s over. Let’s move on.”

And you can tell it is a distraction because that is all anyone discusses regarding the Toronto Maple Leafs.

However, Auston Matthews is not thinking about 70 goals. When the Maple Leafs were in New Jersey last Tuesday, Matthews talked about having the same routine from game to game, and he is not trying to think about and force 70.

“I think the process is the same every night,” Matthews said. “I find when you really overthink it and kind of almost want it too much it almost doesn’t go your way so I try and approach it the same.”

Similar to his head coach, Matthews wants the team to be playing the right way heading into the playoffs.

“Obviously, you want to make sure that, individually and as a team, we’re doing the right things night in and night out on both sides of the puck that will translate well in the postseason,” Matthews continued. 

Auston Matthews has one more chance at 70 goals potentially on Wednesday night against the Tampa Bay Lightning. There is a good chance now that we know Andrei Vasilevskiy will not be between the pipes.

You have to wonder if he gets it early if Keefe shuts him down for the rest of the game.

Still, 69 goals is impressive, the best of his career, but having a round number like 70 would be something special for one of the best pure goal scorers in the game.



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