As expected, Toronto Maple Leafs scoring machine Auston Matthews is among the three finalists for the 2021-22 NHL Hart Memorial Trophy together with Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers and Igor Shesterkin of the New York Rangers. Those three played incredibly in the regular season, and when asked for his pick to win the award, Tampa Bay Lightning head coach Jon Cooper, whose team is actively in a first-round Stanley Cup Playoffs series against the Maple Leafs, left little to the imagination.
Here’s what Cooper said about the matter, per Chris Johnston of TSN.
Jon Cooper, asked for his Hart Trophy pick: "It's hard to score 60 goals in this league."
— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) May 12, 2022
Matthews finished the regular season as the NHL’s top goal scorer with a career-high of 60 goals to go with 46 assists. His 106 points trailed McDavid’s 123 — the highest mark in the league — but of the two, Matthews clearly is the better scorer this season.
Hart Nominees are out, let's take a look at the finalists.
Auston Matthews hit a new high in goal scoring, in part because he creates chances for himself from everywhere. He also rounded out his game considerably this year, especially on defence. #LeafsForever pic.twitter.com/hbJ0fIpDfF
— JFresh (@JFreshHockey) May 12, 2022
Matthews and McDavid have some sort of a Joel Embiid-Nikola Jokic MVP race between them. Like Jokic, McDavid won the MVP last year with Matthews finishing as runner-up. That could be the case anew this year if McDavid ended up with another Hart Memorial Trophy in the bag and Matthews places second anew. Igor Shesterkin, meanwhile, is also deserving, considering how he carried the Rangers on his back, notwithstanding his disastrous playoffs performance, so far.
Hart Trophy Finalists:#LeafsForever Auston Matthews
60 G, 46 A, 106 PTS#LetsGoOilers Connor McDavid
44 G, 79 A, 123 PTS#NYR Igor Shesterkin
36-13-4, 2.07 GAA, .935 SV% & 6 SO
— Sportsnet Stats (@SNstats) May 12, 2022
Cooper is seeing first hand in the playoffs how lethal of a scorer Matthews is, as the forward already has three goals in five games in their series, which could end Thursday night with a Toronto win in Tampa Bay.