Winning the Hart Memorial Trophy felt great. So did winning the Ted Lindsay Award. Goal Maple Leafs star Auston Matthews wishes for more.
“I’d be lying if I said that there wasn’t a little bit of angst, wishing you’re still playing right now,” Matthews said after accepting the two biggest awards at the NHL’s awards show in Tampa, Fla. “Especially being back here.”
Matthews added the Hart, as the league’s MVP, and the Lindsay, given to the outstanding player as voted on by his peers, to the Rocket Richard Trophy he won for his NHL-leading 60 goals in the regular season. He was the first Leafs player to win the Hart since Ted Kennedy in 1955 and the first ever to win the Lindsay, formerly known as the Lester B. Pearson Award.
“I try to be the best I can be,” Matthews said. “It’s nice. I can’t lie. It feels really good. It’s special to have my family here with me. A lot of great players in that room. A lot of really serving guys. Definitely pretty special.”
As is his place in Leafs history. “Anytime you hear your name etched in history in an organization like that, it’s definitely pretty special and something I don’t take for granted.”
The irony of being in Tampa was not lost on Matthews. It was the Lightning that eliminated the Leafs in the first round, and they are now fighting for their third Cup in a row, down two games to one to the Colorado Avalanche.
“I think everybody knows and understands and realizes how hard it is (to win the Cup),” he said. “You need a lot of things to go your way. We played a really good team in Tampa and there’s a reason that they’re back here in the Stanley Cup final for the third straight year … I think there’s a lot of stuff I can take away from (watching the final). It definitely leaves you very motivated and hungry.”
Nobody was hungrier around the net this season, and Matthews’ 60-goal year — the first by an NHL player in a decade — was probably the tipping point in the minds of the Professional Hockey Writers Association voters who placed him ahead of Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid and New York Rangers goalie Igor Shesterkin for the Hart. He beat out McDavid and Nashville blueliner Roman Josi for the Lindsay.
Matthews, who shattered Rick Vaive’s franchise record for goals in a single season, showed he could score at even strength (44 goals, also leading the league) or the power play (16, fourth in the league), with his one-timer, off the rush, or in close. He had 10 game-winning goals, fifth in the league. He averaged 0.82 goals per game, the most by any player (minimum 50 games) since Mario Lemieux in 1995-96, and he scored 19.23 per cent of the Leafs’ goals
But there were other parts to Matthews; game that hit new heights. He won 691 faceoffs, 20th in the league, and had a winning percentage of 56.2, 14th among players who took at least 500 draws.
He was also a hound when he came to retrieving the puck, with his 92 take-aways second to Alex Pietrangelo’s 93. His 62 blocked shots were tops among Leafs forwards and 14th among all NHL forwards.
Matthews received 119 of 195 first-place votes for the Hart. He and linemate Mitch Marner were also named first-team all-stars. Their left-winger, Michael Bunting, was named to the all-rookie squad, though he finished third in voting for the Calder as rookie of the year. That award went to Detroit defenseman Moritz Seider.
McDavid, who was the unanimous choice for Hart last year, was shut out of Tuesday’s voting-based trophies, but he did take home the Art Ross as the league’s leading scorer (123 points). Shesterkin didn’t go home empty-handed, taking the Vezina as the league’s top goalie as voted on by managers.
Colorado’s Cale Makar won his first Norris Trophy as the league’s top defenseman, beating Josi and the Lightning’s Victor Hedman.
This was the first in-person NHL awards show since the pandemic hit, but still smaller than the usual glitzy Vegas event it had become.
Most of the remaining awards had already been announced. Among them:
- Boston’s Patrice Bergeron won the Frank J. Selke Trophy as top defensive forward, as voted on by the PHWA;
- Calgary’s Darryl Sutter won the Jack Adams Award as coach of the year, as voted on by the league’s broadcasters;
- Montreal’s Carey Price won the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy for perseverance and dedication to the sport, as voted on by the PHWA;
- Winnipeg’ Kyle Connor of the Winnipeg Jets won the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy for sportsmanship, as voted on by the PHWA; and
- Anze Kopitar of the Los Angeles Kings won the Mark Messier NHL Leadership Award as determined by a panel from the league.
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