Last night, the Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Winnipeg Jets by a score of 7-3. If a fan only saw the score, it would seem like a blowout for the Maple Leafs. It wasn’t; or, at least, it didn’t start that way. In the end, however, the Blue and White asserted their dominance over the Jets and pushed young Swedish goalie Erik Kallgren to his fourth win of the season.
Other than the victory, this game was also important because it marked Auston Matthews’ achievement of reaching 50 goals for the first time in his career. He was also the first NHL player to reach that mark during the 2021-22 season.
In this edition of Maple Leafs’ News & Rumors, I’ll focus on the significance of some of the events of the game and suggest what they might mean in the team’s near future.
Item One: Congratulations to Auston Matthews for Hitting the 50-Goal Mark
Auston Matthews was the first NHL player to make the iconic 50-goal mark this season. He beat the Edmonton Oilers’ Leon Draisaitl by a single goal. He’s nothing short of an elite goal-scorer in this league. In fact, Matthews had both a goal and an assist on the night and now sits with 50 goals and 37 assists (for 87 points) in only 62 games on the season.
This is the first season that Matthews has reached the 50-goal mark during his career. He’s been in the league for six seasons and has scored 40 goals, 34 goals, 37 goals, 47 goals, 41 goals, and now 50 goals in those six seasons. His next goal puts him at the 250 goal mark for his career.
During this game, Matthews already had registered an assist on William Nylander’s goal. He’d had a few chances to score during the game, but no success. Finally, with the game almost out of reach and the Jets scrambling for a goal, Matthews got the puck in his own zone and accurately shot the puck into an empty net for his record-setting goal.
If Matthews keeps up his current pace, he’s headed for a 62-goal season. If he hits that mark, he will become the all-time franchise leader in goals for a single season. For those fans who care, Matthews is the first Maple Leafs’ player to score 50 goals since Dave Andreychuk scored 53 goals in 1993-94.
Item Two: John Tavares Is Suddenly Hot
John Tavares is on a six-point streak over four games. He scored a goal in close, something he’s as good at as anyone in the NHL (I believe). His hand-eye coordination is exquisite. Over the past four games, he’s scored three goals and three assists.
On the season, Tavares has played 66 games and has scored 23 goals and has added 41 assists (for 64 points). He’s just under a point-a-game player. Tavares also leads the Maple Leafs in face-off percentage on the season with 60.7 percent won. He’s totalled 1,114 face-offs on the season and has won 676 of them. The Maple Leafs lead the NHL in face-off percentage with 55.3 won.
Item Three: Mitch Marner Is Now on an Eight-Game, 17-Point Streak
Talk about prolific scorers, after his three assists during the victory over the Jets, Mitch Marner is now on an eight-game point-scoring streak where he’s collected 17 points. That’s more than an average of two points per game, which is elite territory.
Related: Today in Hockey History: April 1
Two of Marner’s three assists in last night’s game came on the power play. Over his current streak, he’s scored seven points with the man advantage. On the season, the Maple Leafs rank first in the NHL in power-play success at a rate of exactly 30 percent. Obviously, Marner helps make that happen.
What’s Next for the Maple Leafs?
The Maple Leafs are on the road to play the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday night looking for the team’s fourth straight win. Mark Giordano has been a big part of the team’s success since he’s come from the Seattle Kraken in a trade-deadline deal. He’ll be especially important with the injuries to the team’s defense.
Last night, Giordano scored his first goal with the Maple Leafs. He also added an assist. Although he’s only played five games with his new team, assessing this season’s trades at the deadline, what an improvement over last season’s fiasco with Nick Foligno.
No disrespect to Foligno, but the trio of Ilya Lyubushkin and Giordano on the defense and Colin Blackwell as another feisty forward has been oodles better than last season’s swing and miss. The team is better set up for the postseason.
The Old Prof (Jim Parsons, Sr.) taught for more than 40 years in the Faculty of Education at the University of Alberta. He’s a Canadian boy, who has two degrees from the University of Kentucky and a doctorate from the University of Texas. He is now retired on Vancouver Island, where he lives with his family. His hobbies include playing with his hockey cards and simply being a sports fan – hockey, the Toronto Raptors, and CFL football (thinks Ricky Ray personifies how a professional athlete should act).
If you wonder why he doesn’t use his real name, it’s because his son – who’s also Jim Parsons – wrote for The Hockey Writers first and asked Jim Sr. to use another name so readers wouldn’t confuse their work.
Because Jim Sr. had worked in China, he adopted the Mandarin word for teacher (老師). The first character lǎo (老) means “old,” and the second character shī (師) means “teacher.” The literal translation of lǎoshī is “old teacher.” That became his pen name. Today, other than writing for The Hockey Writers, he teaches graduate students research design at several Canadian universities.
He looks forward to sharing his insights about the Toronto Maple Leafs and about how sports engages life more fully. His Twitter address is https://twitter.com/TheOldProf