It has certainly not been an easy season for the Detroit Red Wings, as they currently find themselves in sixth place in the Atlantic Division and will be missing out on the playoffs for the sixth consecutive year. However, on Tuesday night they were a part of history with Auston Matthews scoring his 60th goal of the season for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Matthews had two goals against the Red Wings to become the first player to reach the 60-goal milestone since Steve Stamkos did it for the Tampa Bay Lightning during the 2011-2012 campaign.
“Job’s not done,” Matthews said after the game, via ESPN. “Work’s not finished.”
Matthews is referring to the bigger objectives that he and his teammates have set out for themselves this year. Toronto have never made it past the opening round of the playoffs with the 24-year-old and they are desperate to make a deep run this year.
“It’s special, it’s unique, it’s rare. I’m just really happy for him,” Toronto head coach Sheldon Keefe said to members of the media. “You know the abilities he has, but he works extremely hard at his game, off the ice, he takes his craft very seriously. To see him at the top of his game and reaching these milestones, it’s outstanding.”
Matthews was selected first overall by the Maple Leafs in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft and has been with the franchise for his entire career. He was presented with the Maurice ‘Rocket’ Richard Trophy last year for being the league’s top goalscorer and will claim the award again this season. He is also the leading candidate to pick up the Hart Trophy, given to the NHL’s most valuable player.
“Lots of goals are going in this season and lots of players are having great seasons,” Leafs captain John Tavares said, via the Toronto Star. “I know I’m being biased, but [the Hart Trophy race] is not even close. The consistency he has, the way he does things sometimes, you just shake your head. The fact he did 50 goals in 50 games, I still can’t get my head around that.”
It is obvious from watching them play that the Maple Leafs are having fun when they are on the ice and Matthews was quite appreciative of the support that his teammates have been providing him with, both throughout the campaign and when he reached the milestone.
“It was pretty special, honestly. The reception from my teammates, the crowd, everything,” Matthews commented. “It sends chills down your bones. It’s kind of hard to put into words, you know?”
The Maple Leafs are gearing up for what is likely to be a first-round playoff series against the defending back-to-back Stanley Cup champions the Tampa Bay Lightning or the Boston Bruins. Despite a fantastic regular season from the club, who also managed to reach an all-time point total, the pressure will be on the group to perform in the playoffs.
Regardless of what happens in the opening round of the postseason though, nobody will be forgetting the year that Matthews just had anytime soon.