As impressive as Matthews’ season was, helping the upstart Toronto Maple Leafs into the playoffs where they met the Washington Capitals in the first round, he was highly complimentary of Crosby and fellow Penguins star Evgeni Malkin for their performances in the postseason.
The Penguins dealt with a myriad of injuries, but still won the Stanley Cup in six games against the Predators, despite missing Kris Letang for the entire playoff. Malkin and Crosby led the league in playoff scoring, combining for 55 points. No. 87 won the Conn Smythe Trophy for a second consecutive year.
“It’s no secret he’s the best player in the world for a reason,” Matthews told the Toronto Star. “Watching — not only him but Malkin as well — when the Penguins needed a boost or a big play or a lift, it seemed to come from one of those two guys. That exemplifies their leadership and what they mean to that team.
“It was definitely different watching this year than years before, having played in the playoffs and wanting to be in that position. Definitely, there’s a lot to be learned.”
The rebuild in Toronto has certainly accelerated with the first overall selection of Matthews a year ago, with the Maple Leafs giving the Capitals everything they could handle in the opening round. The 19-year-old center could be in line for some hardware of his own in a few days, as a finalist for the Calder Trophy.