10:38 PM ET
Auston Matthews stands alone in Maple Leafs’ lore.
The 24-year-old scored his 55th goal of the season on Thursday against Dallas, passing Rick Vaive to take Toronto’s single-season goal-scoring record. Matthews accomplished the feat in only 66 games and has netted 48 goals in his last 50 games alone.
Vaive’s 54-goal mark had stood for over 40 years, from the 1981-82 campaign (which was also, incidentally, the highest-scoring season in modern NHL history).
The 62-year-old former winger knew it was only a matter of time before Matthews came for his mantle. Toronto’s first-overall pick in 2016 had 47 goals before the 2019-20 season was shutdown due to COVID-19, and scored 41 goals in the pandemic-shortened 56-game schedule last year.
“I’m happy for him, I really am,” Vaive told ESPN. “I expected him to do it two years ago. He’s a generational-type player. It’s been 40 years that I had that record. I’m just glad that I’m around to see it.”
Matthews said prior to Thursday’s game that potentially breaking the record — after failing to do so in Toronto’s 7-6 overtime loss against Florida on Tuesday — wasn’t his real focus.
“It hasn’t really weighed on me too much,” Matthews said. “I take it game by game and obviously every game I’m trying to create offense and trying to score and trying to produce and help the team win. [Everything else] hasn’t weighed on me.”
Vaive was the first player in Leafs’ franchise history to ever score over 50 goals, doing it three times in the 1980s. Gary Leeman in 1990 and Dave Andreychuk in 1994 were the only others to match Vaive, until Matthews crossed the 50-goal mark for the first time on March 31 against Winnipeg.
Matthews needed just 62 games to score his 50th goal, making it the fastest 50-goal season since 1995-96.
Now he’s set a new benchmark in Toronto, one he could continue building on this year and maybe surpass in seasons to come.
“His skills are outrageous,” said Vaive. “It’s just crazy, how good he is with the puck and how good his shot is. I’m happy that a guy like him has done this because it would have been different if it was someone who just happened to have a fluke year and did it [once], whereas he’s a guy that you can count on probably to get there or close every single year.”
Matthews continues to lead the NHL in goals, and is on track to win the second consecutive Rocket Richard Trophy of his career. Edmonton’s Leon Draisaitl has been Matthews’ closest competition for the prize, notching 50 goals so far.
Source: ESPN NHL