Auston Matthews reaches 100 career goals

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It looked like Auston Matthews scored the 100th goal 8:52 into the second period of Thursday’s game against the Golden Knights, but that tally was ultimately attributed to Patrick Marleau. No big deal; Matthews “corrected” that less than five minutes later with an emphatic power-play goal.

Matthews also ended up scoring his 101th goal as well in this game, generating two goals and one assist overall in the Toronto Maple Leafs’ impressive 6-3 win against Vegas.

With Matthews missing 20 games last season, and being limited to 43 of 57 games so far in 2018-19, it’s tempting to wonder how many more goals Matthews might have … but 100 isn’t too shabby for a 21-year-old.

One nice thing about Matthews’ 100th goal is that it was more typical of his style than the would-be 100th goal that counted.

(You can watch Marleau’s goal here, and you’d probably agree it would have been a little anticlimactic. Sportsnet compiled all 100 of Matthews’ goals, as you can see in the handy video above this post’s headline.)

Beyond the aesthetic value of that milestone goal, it might be interesting to consider Matthews’ career so far, through 101 goals and 187 games. Here’s a breakdown.

187 regular-season games: 101 goals, 84 assists for 187 points, almost a point-per-game. Matthews’ has fired 607 shots on goal, which translates to 3.24 SOG per game.

Through his career so far, Matthews has scored 22 of his 101 goals on the power play, while he hasn’t netted a shorthanded goal yet. That’s less surprising when you realize that Matthews has spent a little less than five minutes of his career shorthanded so far. One can imagine that Matthews’ aggressiveness and IQ could make him a shorthanded breakaway threat, if Mike Babcock ever veers from his current path of using Matthews only at even-strength and on the man advantage.

Before Thursday’s actions, Matthews’ 99 goals ranked him fifth among players since 2016-17, the year he came into the NHL. That comes despite missing all that time with injuries; if you look at goals per game, Matthews’ .53 only trails Alex Ovechkin, who comes in at .55 sine 2016-17.

It’s no surprise that Matthews joins Patrik Laine, Paul Kariya, and even Ovechkin as players who got there so quickly. (Pavel Bure, Eric Lindros, and Teemu Selanne really blazed impressive paths, though.)

Matthews reaching this milestone is quite impressive, and might soothe some of the concerns regarding the $11.6 million cap hit is five-year extension will carry beginning in 2019-20.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

WATCH LIVE: Rangers host Maple Leafs on NBCSN

NBCSN’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with Sunday’s matchup between the Toronto Maple Leafs and New York Rangers. Coverage begins at 6 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

The Maple Leafs won a pivotal division clash Saturday with a 4-3 overtime victory in Montreal to remain in second place in the Atlantic Division. John Tavares scored his team-leading 33rd goal (also T-second in NHL) in OT with a beautiful backhand past Carey Price.

With two points yesterday (goal, assist), Tavares has three straight multi-point games and reached the 60-point mark (33G, 27A in 54 GP), two games shy of his fastest season to 60 points (52 GP in 2013-14 w/ New York Islanders).

Toronto has won four straight games and has a six-game point streak (5-0-1).

On Friday night when the 1993-94 Stanley Cup champion Rangers team was honored for the 25th anniversary of their title, the current Blueshirts fell 3-0 to the Hurricanes. It was scoreless entering the third period before Warren Foegele scored the eventual game-winner and Carolina tallied two empty- netters. Petr Mrazek made 27 saves for Carolina in the shutout, though defenseman Jaccob Slavin also rescued two would-be goals on the doorstep.

The Rangers were shut out for the 5th time this season, tied for second most in the league.

Despite being shut out on Friday, the Rangers top line of Chris Kreider, Mika Zibanejad and Mats Zuccarello has been one of the hottest trios in the league. Since January 12, they have combined for 41 points (19G, 22A) in the last 11 games.

Zibanejad has already set career highs with 53 pts and 31 assists this season. His previous career marks were 51 pts and 30 assists, both in 2015-16 with Ottawa. He is on pace for 80 pts, which would be the highest tally by a Rangers player since Marian Gaborik had 86 in 2009-10.

[WATCH LIVE – COVERAGE BEGINS AT 6 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

What: Toronto Maple Leafs at New York Rangers
Where: Madison Square Garden
When: Sunday, Feb. 10, 6 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
Live stream: You can watch the Maple Leafs-Rangers stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

MAPLE LEAFS
Zach Hyman – John Tavares – Mitch Marner
Patrick MarleauAuston MatthewsKasperi Kapanen
Connor BrownNazem KadriWilliam Nylander
Par LindholmFrederik GauthierAndreas Johnsson

Jake MuzzinMorgan Rielly
Jake GardinerNikita Zaitsev
Travis DermottRon Hainsey

Starting goalie: Garret Sparks

RANGERS
Chris Kreider – Mika Zibanejad – Mats Zuccarello
Pavel BuchnevichKevin HayesJesper Fast
Filip ChytilRyan StromeVladislav Namestnikov
Jimmy VeseyBoo Nieves – Vinni Lettieri

Brady SkjeiAdam McQuaid
Marc StaalTony DeAngelo
Brendan SmithKevin Shattenkirk

Starting goalie: Alexandar Georgiev

Kenny Albert (play-by-play) and Brian Boucher (‘Inside-the-Glass analyst) will have the call from Madison Square Garden. Pre-game coverage starts at 6 p.m. ET on NBCSN with NHL Live, hosted by Kathryn Tappen alongside Patrick Sharp and Keith Jones.

Stop worrying about Maple Leafs’ salary cap situation

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Stop it.

You’re probably doing it right now.

You’re probably looking at the news that the Toronto Maple Leafs signed superstar center Auston Matthews to a five-year, $58.17 million contract extension on Tuesday and starting to panic.

You’re thinking about the contract extension they just gave William Nylander earlier this season, following the massive contract they gave to John Tavares in free agency.

You’re thinking about the contract negotiation they now have to go through with Mitch Marner this upcoming summer and wondering which one of them they’re going to trade.

[RELATED: Maple Leafs sign Auston Matthews to five-year, $58.17M contract]

Maybe you’re even naive enough to think one of the other 30 general managers in the NHL, despite a mountain of evidence over several years to the contrary, is going to suddenly grow some guts this summer and try to sign Marner to a restricted free agent offer sheet, while also believing that Marner might want to actually play for the undoubtedly worse team that is offering it, bypassing an opportunity to get still get paid a ton of money and be a part of a Stanley Cup contending team in Toronto.

How can they pay all of these players? How can they keep them all? Who will they have to trade for DEFENSE?! This can’t work, you’re screaming!

Yeah, you might be doing that.

Well, if are you are, stop doing that. Right now. Because not only are the Maple Leafs going to figure out a way to keep all of Matthews, Nylander, Marner, and Tavares, they are still going to have a chance to win by doing so. I’ve made this argument so many times I know I’m repeating myself, but until the hockey viewing and observing world gets over this fear of paying elite players I am prepared to continue pounding the table over this.

Make no mistake, the Maple Leafs will have to get rid of some people. They will have to make tough decisions and make trades and cut salary somewhere on the roster. But it is not going to be one of those four players. It shouldn’t be anyway. It also doesn’t have to be.

This situation is not unique to the Maple Leafs. They are not the first team in the salary cap era that has had to pay a core of All-Star level players big money at the same time while also trying to figure out a way to still build a competent team around them. They are not the first team that is going to have tough decisions to make. If your natural reaction to seeing the Maple Leafs do this with Matthews, Nylander, Tavares, and Marner is that it can’t work then you haven’t been paying attention to, quite literally, every Stanley Cup winning team in the salary cap era. All of them have a core of four or five players that takes up close to half (or even more than half) of their allotted salary cap space. It is a necessary part of winning, as long as that money is going to the right players.

These four players are the right players.

Let’s just say, hypothetically speaking, that Marner gets $10 million per year on his next contract, which might be a good ballpark figure. It’s more than Nylander, little less than Matthews, and that is probably fair because that is where he fits on the Maple Leafs’ talent hierarchy. That would mean the Maple Leafs would open next season with $39.4 million committed to the quartet of Matthews, Marner, Nylander, and Tavares. If the projected 2019-20 salary cap ceiling of $83 million becomes a reality, that is around 47 percent of the Maple Leafs’ allotted space.

Just for fun, here’s a little comparison of the past three Stanley Cup winners, who also had some pretty high-profile players on their rosters.

You are not winning the Stanley Cup without players of that caliber. Players of that caliber cost a lot of money. Every year between 2010 and 2015 we used to hear about how the Penguins’ model with a couple of big-money players at the top wasn’t working and they might have to trade one to get more depth. Alex Ovechkin‘s contract was just too much for the Capitals to win with because you can’t have one player taking up such a big portion of your salary cap space.

Rubbish.

Does this mean the Maple Leafs are going to be able to keep everybody they want? No. They will have to make some difficult decisions in the coming years. They might have to dump Patrick Marleau‘s contract this offseason. They might have to trade a young player like Kasperi Kapanen or Andreas Johnnson. Or maybe even a Zach Hyman or a Connor Brown. And that’s okay. Those players are replaceable. Maybe not easily replaceable, but still replaceable. You can find another Kasperi Kapanen.

You’re not going to find another Auston Matthews or Mitch Marner.

Just look at the Capitals in the summer before their 2017-18 Stanley Cup season. The salary cap worked against them and they had to make some tough cuts. They couldn’t re-sign Justin Williams and they had to trade Marcus Johansson for pennies on the dollar. But they still had their core, made enough shrewd signings and trades, and had enough young talent coming through the system that they could still piece a competent team around their core and win the Stanley Cup.

Just like the Penguins did the two years before.

The Maple Leafs will be pressed against the salary cap for the foreseeable future, and some second-and third-tier cuts will be happening. But they also have a smart front office that no doubt knows what it’s going to take to make it work, and a front office that knows the type of talent you need to compete. They have it, they kept it. And before you start talking about their defense and how they could, in theory, trade Nylander or Marner for help on the blue line just remember they have a No. 1 defenseman in Morgan Rielly locked up on a long-term, bargain contract for the next few years and just acquired another top-pairing defender in Jake Muzzin without having to trade a core player of their own.

They have the core that can compete for a Stanley Cup. It is definitely not cheap, and it is not going to be easy, but neither is actually winning the Stanley Cup. This is simply the price you have to pay.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

PHT Morning Skate: Oilers’ CEO vows to get it right this time

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Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

• Will Connor McDavid ever escape Edmonton and their perpetual rebuild? (The Ringer)

• The mess that the Edmonton Oilers have become starts at the top (Spector’s Hockey)

• Take it with however many grains of salt you want, but Bob Nicholson is promising to get it right this time in Edmonton (Edmonton Sun)

• A look at the longest losing streaks from recent back-to-back Stanley Cup champs (Nova Caps)

• Puck and player tracking is coming, and it’s going to transform how we understand the game (Russian Machine Never Breaks)

• A look at the puck and player tracking trial run at the NHL All-Star Game this past weekend (NHL.com)

• More time on the overtime clock? Perhaps it’s time (TSN)

• Should the Arizona Coyotes push for Lord Stanley this season? (Five for Howling)

• The bargain bin: six players who could provide good value at the trade deadline (Sportsnet)

• An inside look at Jack Hughes, the top NHL draft prospect Flyers fans are craving (NBC Sports Philadelphia)

Elias Pettersson has thrown a wrench in the Canucks’ rebuild plans. A good wrench (The Province)

• That Patrick Marleau jersey Auston Matthews donned for the All-Star Skills? Yeah, you could own it and help out a charity at the same time (NHL.com)

• The week off for the sliding Buffalo Sabres probably couldn’t have come at a better time. They now feel refreshed (Times-Herald)

• How Dylan Sikura is dealing with NHL growing pains and rediscovering his confidence (NBC Sports Chicago)

• Fresh of a 6-3 defeat on Monday to the New Jersey Devils, PHT’s Adam Gretz imagines the Penguins’ defense with a healthy Justin Schultz (Pensburgh)

• What do the stats say? Why, they say the Vegas Golden Knights have a top-5 defense of course (Sin.Bin Vegas)

• The Bruins return from their mandated week off on Tuesday against the Winnipeg Jets. Here are a few burning questions concerning the Bs (Bruins Daily)

• The decision to send Tyson Jost to the minors appears to be paying off (Mile High Hockey)

• Vincent Lecavalier taken to hospital after Florida pileup (Tampa Bay Times)

• Here’s a list of 10 venues that should host an NHL All-Star Game (Puck Prose)

• Barry Trotz is a good dude:


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

2019 NHL All-Star Skills: Winners, funny moments, Gritty

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With six often-challenging events, inspired moments, and lightning-fast Kendall Coyne, the 2019 NHL All-Star SKills brought a wonderful mix of the expected and unexpected.

In the video above, you can take a look at:

Of course, with an event like this, it’s not just about the winners, losers, near-misses, and near-injuries. (Wipe some sweat off your brow for Miro Heiskanen, Dallas Stars fans.)

Mascots would try their hands (Paws? Hooves? Tentacles?) at various events, which of course meant that there was Gritty. There’s even an “accidental” nod to Gritty falling over … at least it seemed not-so-accidental:

(Hopefully giving Gritty all this attention doesn’t ruffle any fea–let’s move on.)

Click here for a thread of flossing. Dare I say it, but Jon Cooper’s better at it than Roman Josi, right?

Auston Matthews giving a nod to current Maple Leaf and former Shark Patrick Marleau was one of the biggest crowd-pleasing moments.

Brent Burns‘ son showed some shot-blocking prowess.

Take your pick of heartwarming moments with kiddos, honestly.

I’ve never played World of Warcraft, but this is basically what the NHL version would look like, right?

You can see it in the full highlight package, but how about we watch that Coyne lap one more time?

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.