Normally, I look at hockey on a macro level, getting a useful sample size and using that to provide analysis. But in the wake of Auston Matthews’ return to the Maple Leafs lineup Monday, a 2-1 overtime loss to the Rangers in which he launched 16 shot attempts, I took a more granular approach, re-watching the game with a focus on last year’s NHL goals leader.
Matthews finished with 16 shot attempts and eight shots on goal in 22:52 of ice time.
Last season, when he led the league with 41 goals in 52 games, Matthews averaged 7.03 shot attempts per game and 4.27 shots on goal per game, so this was not a standard occurrence.
Auston Matthews’ previous high for shot attempts in a game was 16, also set against the New York Rangers (March, 23, 2019). He did not score in that game, either.
During 5-on-5 play, with Matthews on the ice, the Maple Leafs controlled 62.1% of shot attempts and 73.4% of expected goals against the Rangers and that does not even account for the opportunities he had in overtime.
Wins the opening draw. Picks up a puck that bounces off his glove near the Rangers blueline, can’t quite control it then dives forward and swipes the puck to get it deeper into the Rangers zone, takes a pass from Nick Ritchie, comes around the net but does not have complete control of the puck and it gets knocked away by Rangers defenceman Adam Fox. Chris Kreider ices the puck.
Maple Leafs power play (Barclay Goodrow high-sticking William Nylander)
After Rangers send the puck down the ice, on the new entry, Matthews has a quick touch in the bumper spot then slides out to the left flank where he trades passes with Morgan Rielly, looping around before the second one and launching a wrist shot from the top of the circle. A little bit of distance but it was a reasonably dangerous shot that Shesterkin stopped but could not contain the rebound.
Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner then exchange passes and Matthews launches another shot from the top of the faceoff circle. Saved by Shesterkin but rebound recovered by the Maple Leafs and the puck swings to the right side, where Matthews moves it to John Tavares below the goalline. Fox knocks the puck loose and Matthews jumps in, to support, playing the puck back to Rielly on the blueline.
Matthews recovers a loose puck in the corner and feeds William Nylander up high on the left wing. Matthews then finds a spot in the right circle and as Nylander loops around the top of the zone, he gives the puck the Matthews, who fakes a shot and passes back to Nylander, who fires high. After recovering the loose puck, Rielly sends it to Matthews who feeds Nylander again, but he is checked, and the Rangers send it down the ice.
A short, uneventful shift in which the Maple Leafs do not really control the puck and it ends up in the Rangers zone at which point Matthews changes.
Picks up an errant pass in neutral ice and gets around Rangers winger Artemi Panarin to enter the zone but the puck gets poked away by Fox. Maple Leafs cycle the puck and Matthews, with one hand holding off Rangers defenceman Patrik Nemeth, makes a slick one-handed reverse pass to Ritchie. Easy to overlook and yet it is the kind of play you don’t see every game. Off the ensuing cycle, Matthews is in front of the net for a Jake Muzzin shot that gets blocked. Matthews then receives a pass from Nick Ritchie and, off a high cycle, makes a nifty pass in tight space to Muzzin to keep possession. Moments later, Matthews has freed himself up on the right wing and, after tapping his stick on the ice, one-times a Justin Holl pass over the net.
Wins a faceoff against Filip Chytil, ends up cruising in front of the net as Marner tries to get a pass through. Ritchie shoots the loose puck into Shesterkin. Faceoff to the other side and the Leafs change.
Changes on the fly, after the puck goes to the Rangers in neutral ice, Matthews loses touch with Julien Gauthier, who goes in for a scoring chance. Jack Campbell turns him away. Matthews clears a puck into neutral ice and changes.
Wins a draw in Rangers’ zone but puck goes deep into Maple Leafs zone and it ends up getting iced. Wins next faceoff, on his forehand, and Auston Matthews enters offensive zone late, getting a pass from Marner but can’t find a path to the net. Rebound from a Rielly shot bounces by Matthews in the high slot.
Maple Leafs power play (Jacob Trouba hooking Pierre Engvall)
After one shot attempt by the Leafs power play, Matthews, Rielly and Nylander move it quickly around the top but can not generate a dangerous chance. Matthews is planted in front of the net as Marner fires from the high slot, deflected out of play. After Rangers botch a shorthanded 2-on-1, Matthews makes a backhand pass that springs Nylander for a great scoring chance that hits the post. Spezza comes off the bench and hits the post again. Matthews shoots from a low angle near the goalline and it gets deflected out of play.
Jumps onto the ice with about 17 seconds left in the first period. Wins a race to a loose puck in the right-wing corner of the Rangers zone, spins, and passes to the front of the net. No Maple Leafs there to take the pass. Rangers get a chance as the first period buzzer sounds.
Comes on the ice after a Maple Leafs penalty kill. Maple Leafs start attacking and a Ritchie pass, possibly intended for Matthews, is out of reach. Auston Matthews forces Fox to make an errant pass in neutral ice. Matthews gets a pass at the Rangers blueline off the turnover. He is standing still so can’t get loose. Might have been held a bit by Greg McKegg on the backcheck for the Rangers.
Matthews tries to get to a Ritchie pass off the side of the net and takes a backhand attempt as he’s falling right in front of Shesterkin. Off the counter, Matthews follows Ritchie down the right wing, grabs a loose puck in the corner and feeds it to the front of the net but behind Marner. Shift ends when the Maple Leafs take a too many men on the ice penalty.
Changes on the fly, near the end of the Rangers power play, loses Zibanejad but Lafreniere pass gets away from Zibanejad, too. Tavares on with Matthews and Marner for the next faceoff. Matthews gets the puck in the left-wing corner, tries to make a move past Fox and the reigning Norris Trophy winner steals it from him.
Maple Leafs power play (Julien Gauthier hooking Wayne Simmonds)
Not the focal point of this power play the way he was earlier. Matthews does give Rielly a soft backhand pass for a quality shot. Matthews tries a spinning backhand pass to Marner in the middle of the zone that does not work, unnecessary but creativity is part of the deal. Ends up digging the puck out of the corner in the Maple Leafs zone and jumps into the rush late in the power play with Spezza going down the left wing and Matthews looking to get loose in the slot. Spezza fires wide and Matthews heads to the bench.
Loses draw to Zibanejad to start the third period. Wins another draw. Rangers get a shot on goal and Maple Leafs change. Uneventful.
Wins an offensive zone faceoff against Zibanejad. Matthews steals a Panarin pass and fires a point-blank shot that Shesterkin stops. Rangers get the puck deep in Toronto zone and Matthews starts a breakout with a short backhand pass, through traffic, to Rielly and heads for a change.
Auston Matthews wins a draw against Zibanejad. The puck goes into Toronto zone and the defence tandem of Holl and Muzzin cough up the puck down low leading to a Rangers scoring chance. Matthews can’t get to Zibanejad in time to prevent him from setting up Panarin in front. Matthews jumps in to clear a puck into neutral ice, but the Matthews line did not generate much this time.
Matthews beats Kevin Rooney on the defensive zone draw, makes the breakout pass and Maple Leafs get the puck deep in Rangers’ zone. Marner cycles to Ritchie, who tries to cycle the puck to the corner, but Fox is there ahead of Matthews to break up the play. Rangers ice the puck and Maple Leafs get a fresh line out there.
Matthews wins defensive zone draw, Marner takes off with the puck. Nylander out there on the right wing. Matthews picks up a bobbling puck high in the slot but can’t control it before Fox pokes it away. Matthews ends the shift by chipping puck from Maple Leafs zone into neutral ice.
Gets credit for a defensive zone faceoff win as Zibanejad won the draw to an unguarded Nylander on right wing. Matthews on the ice with Nylander and Tavares after Marner had just finished a penalty kill. Not a lot happening for the Maple Leafs on this shift.
Matthews loses offensive zone faceoff to Chytil but Maple Leafs recover possession and get a shot from Nick Ritchie. Rangers clear it down the ice and Maple Leafs change.
Matthews hops on the ice with 1:16 left in the third period. After the Rangers get a scoring chance, the Leafs get the puck deep and Matthews fires a spinning shot towards the goal but wide. Marner tries to feed Matthews in the high slot, and he tries to shoot but the pass is broken up. Headed to overtime.
Matthews beats Zibanejad on the draw to start overtime. Maple Leafs get into the offensive zone and then Matthews ends up circling back to neutral ice. After another entry, Marner regroups in neutral ice, sends the puck to goaltender Jack Campbell and head to change. Matthews stays out and gets a quick outlet pass from T.J. Brodie, catching the Rangers changing. Auston Matthews slides the puck under Trouba’s stick and has a dangerous scoring chance, but shoots wide stick side coming off the right wing.
Comes off the bench with 2:20 left in overtime, takes a drop pass from Marner and hits the side of the net, shooting from the left-wing circle. Matthews grabs the rebound, goes behind the net and Shesterkin thwarts his wrap-around attempt. Auston Matthews intercepts a Kevin Rooney pass in the Maple Leafs zone but is hit immediately by Trouba. The puck gets into neutral ice where Brodie pokes it ahead and Shesterkin comes out to play the puck, firing up the boards. Matthews one times it, going down to a knee, but Shesterkin stops it while in the middle of the faceoff circle. The rebound goes to Nylander on the right wing, who sets up Matthews, wide open on the left wing, and Shesterkin stops him again. Matthews grabs the rebound and can’t quite put it into the empty net as Trouba gets in his way. A great scoring chance.
The Rangers took off the other way, as Matthews changed, and Zibanejad was stopped on a 2-on-1, leading to the offensive zone faceoff, in which Zibanejad beat John Tavares and set up Artemi Panarin for the overtime winner. Game over.
All in all, Auston Matthews looked dangerous. Even though the pucks did not go in on this night, he should be able to find his range soon enough. I was impressed by his all-around play. Not only did he not score but he created a few scoring chances, too. It would not have been out of the question for him to have three or four points if not for Shesterkin.
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