When Matthew Tkachuk faces his younger brother Brady on Monday night as the Florida Panthers take on the Ottawa Senators, he'll do so without many bragging rights — at least as far as the 2023-24 season goes.
Brady has 10 goals against Matthew's three, and a higher point-per-game mark (0.94) than his older brother (0.85). The Panthers star can claim an edge on Brady in possession metrics, but that doesn't make for great trash talk.
It isn't surprising that Brady is producing at a high level coming off two straight seasons of career highs in goals and points. It is peculiar to see Matthew floundering a bit following consecutive 100-point campaigns — and a third-place Hart Trophy finish for his outstanding 2022-23.
To be fair to Tkachuk, he's still giving the Panthers nearly 20 quality minutes per night and 17 points in 20 games is far from disastrous. At the same time, it's jarring to see a guy who produced 82 goals over his previous two seasons manage just three in the first quarter of 2023-24.
If he were scoring at approximately the rate he had in prior years, he'd be sitting at 10 goals and 17 helpers — tying him for 10th on the NHL points leaderboard. Everything appears to be in order, which makes the central question why can't Tkachuk find the back of the net?
A lack of shots is not the issue. Tkachuk currently ranks fifth in the NHL with 86 attempts on net. His 4.30 shots per game would be a career-high if it held up, as would his 13.2 shots per 60 minutes.
The quality of those attempts doesn't match what Tkachuk has managed in recent years, though. The winger has settled for more shots from far out and managed fewer point-blank looks in 2023-24 than he has in recent seasons.
The difference there is significant, but not massive. It's not as if Tkachuk is walking in off the blue line and blasting slap shots like it's 1999 instead of ever getting to the net. Shot location numbers account for some of his scoring woes, but based on the attempts he's had, he seems like he should be scoring at a significantly higher clip.
According to metrics like scoring chances, high-danger chances, and expected goals, his ability to create opportunities looks similar to 2022-23 — and noticeably better than 2021-22, when he had 42 goals and 104 points.
That means that what we're seeing is probably nothing more than an unusual cluster of poor results. A scoring slump like the one Tkachuk is in the midst of is rare for a player of his caliber, but these things happen — and it's possible for a vicious cycle to emerge where a lack of results affects confidence, which in turn affects results.
It's unfair to speculate on Tkachuk's mindset, and he's never projected a lack of self-belief, but the fact he can't buy a goal right now is likely to be weighing on him. The winger hasn't even recorded a point in his last five games — the longest he's been absent from the score sheet since February 2021.
Anyone betting against Tkachuk to bounce back would be making a foolish wager, though.
The 25-year-old is continually testing opposing goaltenders, and when he's on the ice the Panthers are dominating the scoring-chance battle, earning 58.97% of all opportunities, and 60.98% of high-danger looks at 5v5. He also leads his team in power-play time (86:04) and ranks third in the NHL in shots with the man advantage (29).
The opportunities are going to be there for Tkachuk, and he's already proven himself more than capable of taking advantage in the past. The goals are inevitably on the way for the star, it's just a matter of when they arrive.