Matthews overtakes McDavid as Hart Trophy favorite
There's a new front-runner for the Hart Trophy. For the first time this season, Connor McDavid has been overtaken as the favorite for MVP at Barstool Sportsbook.
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Note: Only listing players +5000 or shorter
McDavid is tied with Leon Draisaitl for the league lead in points. So how did Matthews catch him? A few reasons stand out.
McDavid has hit a bit of a rut, piling up just 26 points over his last 22 games. While those are still good numbers, they aren't great, as he's tied with the likes of Sam Reinhart and Dylan Larkin for 22nd during that span.
His team hasn't enjoyed much success, either. The Oilers are tied with the Blue Jackets and Predators in points over that period and are still trying to dig out from the hole they fell into under Dave Tippett.
Meanwhile, Matthews has taken his game up several notches. He has amassed 36 points over the last 23 games and now finds himself leading the NHL in goals.
He remains nine points behind McDavid but has played three fewer games. Matthews' nine more goals, much stronger defensive metrics, and 10 more points in the team standings make up for the gap.
While oddsmakers are correct in moving Matthews ahead of McDavid, the same can be said of Shesterkin.
Shesterkin has quietly put together one of the most remarkable goaltending seasons of all time. He owns an absurd .942 save percentage and leads the league in Goals Saved Above Expectation. Put simply, Shesterkin is reason No. 1, No. 2, and No. 3 why the Rangers are within striking distance of winning a competitive Metropolitan Division.
Although Shesterkin plays in fewer games than top skaters like Matthews, he definitely belongs in the same conversation in terms of value provided.
McDavid is in tough to catch either of these players. To have any chance, he needs to separate himself from the pack in terms of point production, and the Oilers need to claim home ice for at least the first round of the playoffs. If he doesn't gain separation individually, and the team isn't garnering a ton of success, there is nothing to pull him away from the pack.
Beyond the big three, Draisaitl probably stands the best chance to make a late run at the award. He's right there with McDavid in terms of points, and he's on Matthews' tail in terms of goals. Draisaitl can make a solid case if he leads the league in both categories and the Oilers surge up the standings.
Outside of that, I'm not sure anybody else has a real shot. Jonathan Huberdeau's point total is great, but he plays on arguably the deepest offensive team in the league. He also benefits greatly from cushy usage on home ice, primarily playing opposing teams' middle-six forwards.
In terms of the longer shots, Johnny Gaudreau (fourth in scoring, plays for a likely division winner) is where the value lies.
Realistically speaking, the race is probably between Matthews and Shesterkin.
Todd Cordell is a sports betting writer at theScore. Be sure to follow him on Twitter @ToddCordell.
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