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How Can the Detroit Red Wings stop Toronto’s Auston Matthews Tonight?

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Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews has scored 76 goals in his past 100 NHL games

The Carolina Hurricanes boast the NHL’s best goals-against average and Auston Matthews scored twice against them earlier this month. Calgary is second in GAA and Matthews netted a goal against the Flames earlier in the season. The Colorado Avalanche own the NHL’s best record and Auston Matthews registered a hat trick against them the last time he faced the Avs.

Even the best teams struggle to contain Matthews.

Over the past two seasons, Arizona native Matthews has scored 76 goals in his past 100 games. He has 29 in his past 31 games.

“(Matthews) has a great release on his shot,” Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. “He can really, really shoot it. He can change the angle. Shoots it way different than Alex Ovechkin. Alex overpowers you with his shot. Matthews has a great ability to release it in different spots, can almost trick goaltenders.”

The Red Wings are particularly vulnerable to Matthews because they give up too many high danger scoring chances. According hockeyreference.com, the Red Wings have given up 359 high danger scoring chances this season. That’s 26 more than the league average. To put that into perspective,  consider that the Boston Bruins, the team just above Detroit in the Atlantic Division standings, have given up 293 high danger changes. That’s 66 fewer than Detroit. Opponents convert 12.2% of the high danger scoring chances into goals against Detroit.

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Those numbers would suggest Matthews has a good chance to score against Detroit. The Maple Leafs have beat the Red Wings twice this season, racking up 12 goals in the two wins.

Matthews No Goals vs Red Wings

But oddly, Auston Matthews didn’t score in Toronto’s 5-4 or the 7-4 win. He did manage two assists in the most recent 7-4 Toronto triumph

“He’s a playmaker and a transporter of the puck, more similar to Connor McDavid,” Blashill said. “Obviously McDavid is an elite transporter of the puck, at high speed he can make plays. Matthews doesn’t have that same level of speed. But he has speed, and a big big body. He has a pretty unique combination.”

Matthews has been such a force this season that he is in the discussion for the Hart Trophy.

Blashill recently tweaked the Detroit defense, breaking up the Moritz Seider-Danny Dekeyser pairing. Nick Leddy is now playing with rookie sensation Seider. Expect to see Seider out against Matthews quite a bit. Plus, Dylan Larkin will match-up against Matthews as well.

Toronto-Detroit games are always special in Detroit because Maple Leafs fans are close enough to Detroit to make their presence felt.

“Yeah. I’d like it to be all red but the fact that it’s filtered with some blue in there makes for a raucous crowd for sure,” Blashill said. “They go back and forth and it’s an awesome environment, one of the best environments we play in every year and I expect it to be the same tonight.”