Igor Shesterkin returned to MVP-form on Wednesday to help keep the New York Rangers alive.
Then on Thursday, his candidacy was made official, as the 26-year-old goalie was named one of three finalists for the Hart Trophy, awarded “to the player adjudged to be the most valuable to his team.” He is joined by Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews and Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid.
Shesterkin -- also a finalist for the Vezina Trophy, awarded to the NHL's best goaltender -- looks to become the third goalie to win the Hart Trophy since 2000, joining Carey Price in 2014-15 and Jose Theodore in 2001-02.
Shesterkin led the league with a 2.07 goals-against average and .935 save percentage, recording six shutouts in 53 appearances. He posted a 36-13-4 record while leading the Rangers to their third-best season in franchise history with 110 points, trailing only the 2014-15 team (113 points) and 1993-94 team (112 points).
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Shesterkin is the fifth Rangers goalie to be named a finalist for the Hart Trophy, and the first since Henrik Lundqvist in 2011-12. The only Rangers netminder to win the award was Chuck Rayner in 1949-50. Shesterkin would be the first member of the Rangers to win the award since Mark Messier in 1991-1992 and fifth overall.
Shesterkin had 29 saves Wednesday in the Rangers' 5-3 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins that forced Game 6 in their first-round series. After struggling in Games 3 and 4, Shesterkin had 29 saves in the win, once again resembling the netminder that led the Rangers to a surprising second-place finish and made him a favorite for the Vezina and finalist for the Hart.
He faces stiff competition for the Hart Trophy, with his competition coming off record-setting seasons.
Matthews scored a franchise-record 60 goals to lead the NHL, becoming just the 22nd player to reach the 60-goal milestone in a single season and the first to do since Steven Stamkos in 2011-2012. The 24-year-old Matthews also added 46 assists while helping the Maple Leafs win a franchise-best 54 games. Matthews was the runner-up for the Hart Trophy last season, finishing second in voting to McDavid.
McDavid is looking to become the first player to win the Hart Trophy in consecutive seasons since Alex Ovechkin in 2008 and 2009. Having also captured the award in 2016-2017, McDavid would be the ninth player in NHL history to win the Hart Trophy at least three times. The 25-year-old, a four-time Hart Trophy finalist, set career highs with 44 goals, 79 assists and 123 points while helping the Oilers to their best regular-season record since the 1986-1987 season.
Matthews, McDavid and Shesterkin were the top-three vote-getters on ballots submitted by members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association at the end of the regular season. The winners of all NHL awards will be announced during the conference finals and Stanley Cup Final.