John Tavares found it difficult to enjoy his nomination as a Hart Trophy finalist on Wednesday. It was his second such honor in the last three years, and both have come after Islanders playoff seasons. But the first-round exit on Monday still lingered stronger for Tavares than the excitement of a ticket to Las Vegas for the June awards ceremony.
"It stings. It's been a really hard last three days," Tavares said Thursday before he left the Coliseum for the last time. "I think you carry this one forever really, obviously with what this season's meant with the building and everyone that's a part of this organization . . . The people here deserved more in the postseason."
Tavares lost to Alex Ovechkin for the Hart Trophy in 2013 and isn't likely to grab his first MVP this year either. Canadiens goaltender Carey Price is the odds-on favorite. Ovechkin was the third finalist announced by the NHL late Wednesday, and Ovechkin's Capitals played on after eliminating Tavares' Isles in Game 7 on Monday.
Tavares finished second in the league with a career-high 86 points this season, his sixth with the Isles. "He'd have my vote every day," Ryan Strome said. "I see how hard he works and how special he is and how much he means to this team. He does everything. A lot of the stuff that you guys might not see, he truly means a lot for us."
Tavares had two goals and six points in the playoff series against the Caps but failed to register even a shot attempt in Game 7. That may fuel his offseason more than another Hart Trophy runner-up scenario.
"Any time you're up for the Hart Trophy in this league, it's pretty special company," he said. "Just to be a nominee, it speaks volumes to our team and my teammates, coaching staff, the belief they have in me, and the amount of support I get from them and how well they played, how well my team played. Both years I've been nominated, both years we went to the playoffs, and that's because everyone was contributing."