How Far Has Matthews Separated Himself From Other Top Scorers?
Another season, another Rocket Richard Trophy for Auston Matthews. Winning back to back goal scoring titles demands enough respect by itself however the separation Matthews has created between himself and the other top scorers in the league might still be understated.
When it comes to scoring in hockey, all goals may count the same but they definitely aren’t all scored the same. To get a look into how dominant Matthews has been at goal scoring we need to consider more than just goals, we need to look at how those goals are being scored. For the sake of this article the top scorers will be all players who scored 50 or more goals this season; Auston Matthews (60), Leon Draisaitl (55), Chris Kreider (52), and Alex Ovechkin (50). When analyzing the types of goals these players scored this year, it becomes more clear that Matthews is scoring his goals without taking the easy road there.
Goals and Goals Per Game
Let’s start with the most basic stat there is… goals. Auston Matthews had five more goals than Leon Draisaitl who finished second again this year. That might not be enough to create a separation between the group however it strengthens his case when we consider he did this while also playing less games than any of the other three. Matthews comfortably won the Rocket while playing eight less games than Kreider, seven less games than Draisaitl, and four less games than Ovechkin. When these stats are converted to goals per game (see chart below), we see the first signs of significant separation. Within this year’s top goal scoring class we see quite similar goal per game stats amongst the three runners up (0.65 to 0.69) with a large gap to Matthews (0.82). Don’t worry, it gets better.
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Games Played (GP)
Continuing on, you might think this kind of production is the result of playing more in powerplay situations and capitalizing on those opportunities, however I’m here to tell you that’s not the case. As you can see in the chart below, Matthews and Kreider play significantly less powerplay time than Draisaitl who respectively plays significantly less powerplay time than Ovechkin (who plays on both powerplay units for his team). If we look at these differences in powerplay times and stretch those out over the whole season the difference becomes more noticeable. By the end of the season, Draisaitl had played a full game of power-play time more than Matthews while Ovechkin was nearly double that, a massive advantage. Kredier definitely makes the most of his powerplay opportunities considering he scored half of his goals this year on the PP with 26 followed closely by Draisaitl with 24. Despite the sizable advantage Ovechkin has over Matthews in TOI PP both snipers only deposited 16 goals on the powerplay this year. If we take away any goals scored on the man advantage this year it leaves Matthews tantalizingly close to still hitting 50 while the rest of the group is left far behind.
Power-Play TIme Per Game (TOI PP)
Power-Play Goals (PPG)
Goals Without PPG (GWPP)
Powerpay Time Compared to Matthews Over 82 Game Season (Minutes)
Empty Net Goals
There has to be something against Matthews right? He scored his 50th into an empty net, he must score a lot of empty netters! Nope. Matthews definitely doesn’t receive any more benefit from scoring on empty nets than any of the top players but he doesn’t score significantly less to the point where it would serve as a boost to his case of separation from the rest of the group. Now if anyone tries telling you Matthews scores more goals because of additional empty net opportunities, you know that’s not the truth. If anything is to be taken away from these empty net stats, it might be that Ovechkin relied on empty net goals to stay competitive this year.
Empty Net Goals (ENG)
Goals Without ENG
No Easy Goals
Finally, the separation becomes undeniable when we take away goals from both of the previously discussed scenarios in which scoring is more common. When we look at goals scored not on the powerplay or into an empty net, Matthews sits far above the competition with a whopping 40 while Draisaitl who sits in second amongst this category falls 12 short with a still very impressive 28.
Goals Without PPG or ENG
Auston Matthews scores more goals than anyone else in the league despite not relying on easy goals to get him there. If there was any uncertainty about how special the performance from number 34 was this season, hopefully it has been made a bit more clear. Although there will never be a consensus on who the best goal scorer of all time is, one thing can be sure… if someone tells you Auston Matthews isn’t that good, they probably just don’t like the Leafs.