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 as the NHL most valuable player by members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association, and the Ted Lindsay Award as the most outstanding player in the League as voted by members of the NHL Players’ Association.
But being back at Amalie Arena to speak to the media afterward had Matthews thinking about what might have been for the Maple Leafs this season as much as his individual achievements.
“I always try to set goals and just try to be the best that I can be,” Matthews said. “But I think I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a little bit of, I guess, angst 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 series win since 2004 but lost 4-3 in overtime to the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference First Round. The Lightning won 2-1 in Game 7 at Toronto to eliminate the Maple Leafs and continue their quest to win the Stanley Cup for the third straight 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’ve been watching,” Matthews said. “It’s tough to say. I’ve been watching for so long. Six, seven years now of watching at this time of year. So I think everybody knows, understands and realizes how hard it is. You need a lot of things to go your way and certain things.
Video: Auston Matthews wins Hart Trophy for NHL MVP
“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. So I think these are all just things that we can, I suppose, learn from.”
Matthews is the third Maple Leafs player to win the Hart Trophy, joining Ted Kennedy (1955) and Babe Pratt (1944), and the first to win the Ted Lindsay Award. The native of San Ramon, California, is the second United States-born player to win the Hart and Ted Lindsay, following Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks in 2016.
Matthews’ fellow finalists were Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid and New York Rangers goalie Igor Shesterkin for the Hart, and McDavid and Nashville Predators defenseman Roman Josi for the Lindsay.
“It’s nice. I can’t lie,” Matthews said. “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 deserving guys. Definitely pretty special.”
Video: Auston Matthews wins Ted Lindsay award
Matthews set a Maple Leafs record with 60 goals, breaking the mark set by Rick Vaive (54) in 1981-82, and won the Rocket Richard Trophy for the second straight season as the NHL leader. The first player to score that many in season since Steven Stamkos scored 60 for the Lightning in 2011-12, Matthews also set the record for most goals by United States-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 resume next season.
“I think it’s a tremendous honor to wear the blue and white and represent the city of Toronto and wear the Maple Leaf every night,” he said. “The guys that have come before us and just the history that’s embarked on this organization, it means a lot. So anytime you get your name mentioned in history in an organization like that, it’s definitely pretty special and something I don’t take for granted.”