TAMPA– Auston Matthews appreciated what a special night it was for him and his family at the 2022 NHL Awards on Tuesday.
The Toronto Maple Leafs center won the Hart Trophy, voted NHL Most Valuable Player by members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association, and the Ted Lindsay Award for League’s Most Outstanding Player, voted by members of the NHL Players Association.
But being back at Amalie Arena to speak to the media afterwards got Matthews thinking about what could have been for the Maple Leafs this season as much as his individual accomplishments.
“I always try to set goals and try to be the best I can be,” Matthews said. “But I think I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a bit of, I guess, angst in wishing you were still playing, obviously, right now. Especially being back here.”
The last time Matthews was in the building, the Maple Leafs had a chance for their first Stanley Cup Playoff victory since 2004, but lost 4-3 in overtime to the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 6 of the first round of the Eastern Conference. The Lightning won 2-1 in Game 7 in Toronto to eliminate the Maple Leafs and continue their quest to win the Stanley Cup for the third consecutive season.
Tampa Bay trails the Colorado Avalanche 2-1 in the Stanley Cup Final heading into Game 4 of the best-of-7 series here Wednesday (8 p.m. ET; ABC, ESPN+, CBC, SN, TVAS).
“Of course I watched,” Matthews said. “It’s hard to say. I’ve been watching for so long. Six, seven years now watching at this time of year. So I think everyone knows and understands and realizes how difficult it is. You need a lot of things to go your way and some things.
Video: Auston Matthews wins Hart Trophy for NHL MVP
“We played against a really good team in Tampa and there’s a reason they’re back here in the Stanley Cup Finals for the third year in a row. So I think those are all things we can I guess , learn lessons from.”
Matthews is the third Maple Leafs player to win the Hart Trophy, after Ted Kennedy (1955) and Babe Pratt (1944), and the first to win the Ted Lindsay Award. The native of San Ramon, Calif., is the second US-born player to win the Hart and Ted Lindsay, after Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks in 2016.
Matthews’ other finalists were Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid and New York Rangers goaltender Igor Shesterkin for defender Hart, McDavid and Nashville Predators Romain Josi for Lindsay.
“It’s good. I can’t lie,” Matthews said. “It’s really good. It’s special to have my family here with me. Lots of great players in this room, lots of really deserving guys. Definitely quite special.”
Video: Auston Matthews wins the Ted Lindsay Award
Matthews set a Maple Leafs record with 60 goals, beating the mark set by Rick Vaive (54) in 1981-82, and won the Rocket Richard Trophy for the second straight season as an NHL point guard. The first player to score as much in a season since Steven Stamkos scored 60 for the Lightning in 2011-12, Matthews also set the record for most goals per American-born player in a season.
Matthews tied Stamkos for sixth in the NHL with 106 points (46 assists) in 73 games to help Toronto (54-21-7) finish with the most wins and points (115) in its history and qualify for the playoffs for the sixth straight. season. But Matthews hopes to add playoff success to his Maple Leafs recovery next season.
“I think it’s a huge honor to wear the blue and white, to represent the city of Toronto and to wear the maple leaf every night,” he said. “The guys who came before us and just the history that got into this organization means a lot. So every time your name comes up in history in an organization like that, it’s really quite special and something that I don’t take for granted.”