Lawrence Shankland etched his name in the Heart of Midlothian history books once again on Wednesday evening to clinch what might just be his greatest achievement yet.

Not content with merely topping the Premiership scoring charts, becoming the first Hearts player to ever win the PFA Scotland Player of the Year award or becoming the first man to hit 20 goals in back-to-back league campaigns in Gorgie since Willie Wallace half a century ago, the talismanic centre-forward became the first player since the legendary John Robertson to breach the 30-goal barrier while draped in maroon.

He did it in style, too. Shankland’s spectacular volley against St Mirren was his 23rd of the league season, adding to his trio of goals in the Europa Conference League and his four in the domestic cup competitions this term. And with Rangers coming to town on Saturday for the campaign’s conclusion, there is every chance he can add to his tally yet.

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“I’m delighted,” Shankland said. “It’s a great feeling and a great achievement for a striker to hit 30 in a season and it’s one I'm proud of.

“When you start the season I think most people's ambition is to get over 10 and take it from there but I managed to keep the goals flowing throughout and to reach 30 is something I'm proud of.

“I felt last year my performances were really good throughout the season and I wanted to make sure I was doing that again and the goals came along with that. The more the goals were going in this season and the closer you got to reaching what you got last season you're thinking 'right, I'll go and try to beat it'.

“The closer I was getting to 30 I was really wanting to do that. I probably had a couple of shots I shouldn't have had out there [against St Mirren], I was getting a wee bit desperate. I was just delighted to see that hit the net.”

Certain goal tallies are often arbitrary in nature (is there really that great a distinction to be drawn between a 29-goal season and a 30-goal one?) but it is another milestone impressively hurdled by a player who has racked up a host of individual honours this year, including, most recently, the SFWA Player of the Year award.

There is so much more to Shankland than his goals, but it would be churlish to claim that his prowess in front of goal isn’t his biggest selling point. Thirty goals is a remarkable achievement, and one that may not be repeated for some time. Let’s take a look at the numbers behind Hearts’ goal-scoring phenomenon.

First things first: Shankland has scored all manner of goals, against pretty much every team he has faced this season. Kilmarnock and Greenock Morton are the only teams Hearts have played this term (in all competitions) who haven’t conceded a Shankland goal. We’ll be focusing on his goals in the Premiership, but it’s important not to forget his seven goals from the various cup competitions.

A quick glance at Shankland’s raw numbers in the league this season tells its own story. Of his 23 goals, only three have been penalties – a fact that should put the ‘penalty merchant’ allegations from his detractors to bed once and for all – from a total of 128 shots. Roughly one in three of his efforts on goal are on target, and one in six nestle into the back of the net.

An examination of Shankland’s expected goals (xG) is illuminating too. His cumulative xG for the season sits at 11.4 – almost precisely half of his actual output – while his post-shot xG sits at 17.2. This tells us that Shankland’s shooting is very, very good. Half-chances become good chances and good chances become excellent chances when they fall the striker’s way.

The graphic above shows under-the-hood attacking stats for each player to have reached double figures in the Premiership this season. No other player in Scotland’s top flight out-performs their xG so emphatically. No one else has a bigger discrepancy between their xG and post-shot xG, even though only James Tavernier has a lower xG/shot. In simple terms: other players get better opportunities, but the key difference is that Shankland takes his.

Much of that is due to where Shankland is shooting from. Take a look at Shankland’s goal map in the league. Almost all of his goals have arrived inside the box and in between the lines of the six-yard box, and he is positively deadly from this sort of range. The ‘colder’ shapes represent low-xG efforts, while the ‘warmer’ ones denote high-quality chances.

The data shows that while Shankland isn’t shy of a speculative effort from range, his best work arrives when he is close to goal. The table below shows the distribution of his shots and goals based on their xG, and the results are intriguing. The blue dots represent shots, and the white dots are goals.

None of Shankland’s 47 lowest-xG efforts (usually snap-shots from distance) resulted in a goal – he didn’t score a single goal with an xG below 0.05 – but when we move a little further up the scale, we see why Shankland has enjoyed a truly remarkable campaign. The 28-year-old has scored nine of his 37 shots with an xG between 0.05 and 0.075: for your average player, the same number of opportunities would yield just two goals.

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The stats tell us what Hearts supporters already know: Shankland is a special player who is capable of special things. Whether he leaves this summer, runs down his contract or commits his long-term future to the club, his legacy remains intact nonetheless.

The best Hearts striker this season. The best Hearts striker this century. The best Hearts striker since Robbo.