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.