Toronto Maple Leafs: Auston Matthews must show more consistency

TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 21: Auston Matthews #34 of the Toronto Maple Leafs skates after a whistle against the Columbus Blue Jackets during the second period at the Scotiabank Arena on October 21, 2019 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Kevin Sousa/NHLI via Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 21: Auston Matthews #34 of the Toronto Maple Leafs skates after a whistle against the Columbus Blue Jackets during the second period at the Scotiabank Arena on October 21, 2019 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Kevin Sousa/NHLI via Getty Images) /

Auston Matthews is off to another excellent start to the season for the Toronto Maple Leafs, but needs to make sure there is no letdown in the coming months.

The Toronto Maple Leafs suffered a setback on Tuesday night, as they lost 4-2 on the road to the Boston Bruins. The team now has just three points in their last four games.

For Auston Matthews specifically, it was a tough evening in Boston, as he recorded just two shots and no points. This was despite seeing 20:55 of ice time, which represented his second-highest total of the 2019-20 campaign so far.

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Matthews gave an honest assessment after the game, both in respect of himself and the team in general. As reported by TSN, he said the following.

"“It’s just not good enough. We need to be better. I think it comes from the leadership group. I need to be better. All of us need to be better. I think we just need to look each other in the eye and hold each other accountable.”"

In fairness to Matthews, it’s okay to have an off-night every now and then, especially when you consider he has 11 total points in 11 games this season. This includes eight goals, which ranks him third overall in the NHL entering Wednesday’s slate of games. In truth, this is nothing new for the 22-year-old. Consider this tweet from TSN‘s Frank Seravalli.

So what can we learn from this? In theory, it means Matthews historically starts hot in October but fails to produce as consistently for the remainder of the regular season.

This certainly seems to be the case, when you consider the center’s goals by month for the first three seasons of his career.

  • Oct. = 25
  • Nov. = 10
  • Dec. = 19
  • Jan. = 13
  • Feb. = 22
  • Mar. = 15
  • Apr. = 7

However, we need to go deeper, in order to be as objective and reasonable as possible. Plus there are other factors to consider, including the games Matthews has missed in two of his previous NHL seasons, as well as the fact the regular season concludes early in April.

In order to achieve some perspective, we calculated the three-time All-Star’s average goals per game for each month. Again, the results relate to his first three regular seasons in the NHL:

  • Oct. = 0.78
  • Nov. = 0.38
  • Dec. = 0.59
  • Jan. = 0.37
  • Feb. = 0.55
  • Mar. = 0.44
  • Apr. = 0.54

As the above shows, even taking into account factors such as Matthews’ previous injuries and fewer games played in April, he does still seem to drop off his goals production following October. In this respect, his production so far this season is 0.73, which is right in line with previous seasons.

So what’s the reason for this? What happens to the 2016 first overall draft pick once October concludes?

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There are various theories being suggested, including that Matthews gets tired as the season goes on, he’s still young/learning and that he is marked more tightly by opposing teams. Or that he has had to get back into a rhythm when returning from injuries during each of the past two seasons.

Another less objective theory suggests the 2017 Calder Memorial Trophy winner struggles to perform as the pressure increases with every passing month during the season. We would suggest this isn’t the case however, especially when you consider he had five goals in seven playoff games last season against the Bruins, which works out at 0.71.

On a related note, Matthews’ assist production is also better in October compared to the rest of the regular season. He has had 0.53 assists per game in October the previous three seasons, compared to 0.43 for the other months combined.

Having taken everything into account, and regardless of what the reason is for the San Ramon, California, native’s dip in form as the regular season progresses, what can we conclude? Ultimately, his production throughout the regular season is nothing to criticize per se.

For example, Matthews has 33 total points in 32 games in December and 43 overall points in 40 February games over the previous three seasons combined. Further, we appreciate that hockey is the ultimate team game.

Regardless, Matthews is the cornerstone of the Toronto Maple Leafs’ franchise both for the immediate and theoretically long-term future. As such, pure and simple, he must produce more consistently throughout the course of the regular season, to help the team finish as high as possible in the Eastern Conference and improve their potential advantage for the playoffs.

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What is your take on Matthews’ previous dips in production for the Toronto Maple Leafs once October finishes?  Do you predict a similar scenario this season, or do you believe he will show more consistency? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.