TORONTO -- Auston Matthews is on pace to score 70 goals this season, which is rarified territory in the NHL. Not since Teemu Selanne and Alexander Mogilny each scored 76 goals during the 1992-93 season has any player reached the mark.

But as the Toronto Maple Leafs get set to play their 50th game on Saturday against the Ottawa Senators (7 p.m. ET; CBC, TVAS, SNE, SNO, SNP), Matthews enters the game nearly on pace for the milestone.

"I think if there is anyone who comes to mind that is capable of doing it, it's him," Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby said. "If you ask any guy who could do that, it's him. It takes so much and even pure goal scorers, a number like that, you need some bounces too and you need some things to go your way. But he's more than capable, he's shown it and I think it would be great for hockey to see a run like that. I think that just brings more attention to the game and as players, I think you appreciate records like that."

Matthews got one of those breaks on Wednesday when he scored his NHL-leading 41st in a 5-4 win against the Dallas Stars, stealing the puck along the side boards, skating toward the net and shooting from the bottom of the left faceoff circle off a sprawling Esa Lindell and over the glove of goalie Scott Wedgewood. 

"It's something where it's been a long time (since anyone reached 70), so I think it would say a lot," Crosby said.

Only eight players in NHL history have scored at least 70 goals in a season. Wayne Gretzky did so four times, including an NHL-record 92 with the Edmonton Oilers in 1981-82; Brett Hull did so three times, including 86 with the St. Louis Blues in 1990-91; Mario Lemieux twice, including 85 with the Penguins in 1988-89; and Selanne, Mogilny and Phil Esposito (76 each), Jari Kurri (71) and Bernie Nicholls (70) each once.

Matthews has a legitimate chance to join that list. With 41 goals in 48 games (he missed one game due to illness), he is averaging .85 goals per game. If Matthews plays in every game the rest of the season, that would put him on pace for 68 goals in 81 games.

"It means a lot coming from a guy like him," Matthews said of Crosby. "When you're getting the question asked (to me about what he said), I'm not sure how to even respond to that but that's obviously really nice words from him."

As compelling as his chase to 70 goals is, Matthews admits winning games and helping the Maple Leafs go on a long run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs is where his mindset will be for the remainder of the season.

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"It's not really the main focus for myself or for this team," Matthews said. "I'm just trying to take it game by game, go out there and play to the best of my abilities and do what I can to help the team win whether that's (getting) on the scoreboard or not. Try to take care of the little things away from the puck and stuff like that so for myself, I just try to focus every game, not worry too much about scoring the goals, just playing to the best of my ability and I'll let those chances be there and try to make good on them when they come."

Matthews has scored at least 34 goals in each of his eight NHL seasons, including more than 40 goals six times, and had an NHL-career high 60 in 2021-22 when he won the Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy as leading goal scorer, and the Ted Lindsay Award and Hart Trophy as NHL MVP. Through his first 529 NHL games, he has 340 goals which is a pace of .64 per game, higher than that of Alex Ovechkin, the NHL active leader in goals and second all time with 833, who has scored at a pace of .60 through 1,393 games.

Connor McDavid got close to 70 goals last season, scoring a career-high 64 in 82 games. The Edmonton Oilers center is hoping Matthews gets there.

"It would be amazing," McDavid said. "Obviously he's as good as you're going to find in this League and goal scoring-wise, he's the best of the best. To think somebody might score 70 goals is mind-boggling. If anyone is going to do it, I think he's the guy. He's having a great year, I don't see him slowing down."

Matthews has 27 goals in his past 27 games. He began the season with back-to-back hat tricks and has since added two more, leading the NHL with four this season.

"It's insane," Maple Leafs forward William Nylander said. "It feels like every couple games, there's a hat trick coming in too so he's been on fire. It's been lots of fun to see him dominate the game."

Said linemate Mitchell Marner, "It feels like almost any time he is on the ice, there's the potential that goals could go in. It's just been cool to be a part of it. Obviously us two (Marner and Nylander) get on the ice with him quite a bit and play with him quite a bit. You're always usually looking for (No.) 34 to find him with the puck in his hand. Especially underneath the hashmarks or the circles, you usually have a good chance that something good is going to happen."

But it is not just his ability to score that has earned Matthews the respect of his peers, it is his ability to excel in all facets of the game. Matthews is third among forwards in blocked shots with 58, has a plus-16 rating, and averages 51 seconds of short-handed ice time per game.

"It's not surprising at all," Anaheim Ducks forward Frank Vatrano said. "He's been consistent every single year. Obviously he is a great scorer, but the other parts of his game go unnoticed. He plays a complete game. I think he's top 10 in blocked shots as a forward and for a guy on pace to score 70 goals, you don't see that a lot. He wants to play at both ends of the ice and wants to win here so it's great to see a guy who wants to win and has the will to play like that."