Matthews fine after taking hit from Kronwall, coach Babcock would like Maple Leafs to be ‘physical on offence’

Auston Matthews’ National Hockey League career didn’t flash before his eyes on Thursday night.
In fact, there wasn’t even a brief moment of panic for the Maple Leafs superstar at Scotiabank Arena after he was crushed into the corner boards by Detroit Red Wings defenceman Niklas Kronwall.

“I was fine,” Matthews said on Friday after the Leafs practised. “I just kind of lost my wind for a second. But, no, I didn’t really feel anything there. Just one of those things.”

Matthews was back on the ice at the MasterCard Centre, centring a line with Andreas Johnsson and Kasperi Kapanen as the Leafs prepared to face the Boston Bruins on Saturday night, Toronto’s first of five consecutive road games.

Patrick Marleau was given the day to rest, and coach Mike Babcock said the 39-year-old would be in the lineup against Boston.

Considering Matthews’ history of shoulder injuries, Leafs Nation rightfully held its collective breath until Matthews, wincing in pain, got up. The 21-year-old centre didn’t miss a shift, as it turned out.
Kronwall received a boarding minor on the play, but the Leafs didn’t score with the man advantage.

Detroit won the game 5-4 in overtime after the Leafs erased a 4-1 Wings lead in the third period.
There has been hand-wringing among some observers that the Leafs didn’t seek retribution on Kronwall.
Morgan Rielly made an effort to get at the Wing but was held up by Gustav Nyquist. Other Leafs on the ice at the time included Kasperi Kapanen, Andreas Johnsson and Ron Hainsey.

Does coach Mike Babcock expect a reaction from other Leafs when a player of Matthews’ ilk takes such a hit?

“I just think you look at our personnel and you look (at) what we got,” Babcock said. “We are what we are. Our toughness is our power play. Take all the penalties you want.”

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Difficult to argue with the coach on that point. The Leafs’ power play, though 0-for-4 against Detroit, is clipping along at 26.7%, good for sixth-best in the NHL prior to games on Friday.

Matthews said he had not seen a replay of the check.

“Stuff like that is going to happen,” Matthews said. “You’re battling, sometimes you think a play is dirty and maybe it’s not, or maybe a play doesn’t seem so dirty and you watch it on replay and it is. I have not seen it, but we got a power play from it.”

Quite frankly, those who think Babcock and general manager Kyle Dubas should be teaming up to find a policeman-type player for the Leafs haven’t been paying attention. The emphasis in Toronto is on quick, talented forwards who have the ability to score at a moment’s notice.

The Leafs had a player who could administer justice if needed, and that was winger Matt Martin, who last season played in three games after Jan. 22 before he was traded to the New York Islanders in July for minor-league goalie Eamon McAdam.

Babcock would like his team to be more physical, a factor he touched on after the Leafs won in Minnesota last Saturday. There’s a big difference between being physical and acquiring a player whose job is to mete out punishment, something that would not keep a man employed on a full-time basis in today’s NHL.

During training camp, Babcock said his team would have to be physical “by committee” with the off-season departures of players such as Martin, Leo Komarov and Roman Polak.

“I think we’re getting better and better in that area,” Babcock said when asked about it on Friday. “I would like our team to be physical on offence. What that means to me, is when you get the puck, you hang on to it.

“You get your ass out, you protect the thing, you spend time heavy in the offensive zone. That’s physical for our group. I would like to finish checks when the check is there. When the guy is twice as big as you, I like you to cut off his arms.”

As for Kronwall, the Leafs and the Wings have two more meetings in 2018-19: On Dec. 23 in Toronto and on Feb. 1 in Detroit.

The Leafs weren’t thrilled with the hit on Matthews, but were not vowing bloody revenge either.
“(Kronwall) is a good honest player and at the same time, I have seen him line up a few guys,” Nazem Kadri said. “He likes to play physical and that’s just a play that is tough to call, a player five, six feet from the boards.

“Even if you give him a little tap on the back, it’s still a dangerous play, no matter how hard you hit him, just because of the circumstances. Thankfully, (Matthews) is OK and you just move on.”

‘IT’S OUR TURN TO PUSH BACK’

The Maple Leafs want to take some stuffing out of the Boston Bruins before the holiday season.
Rivalries in pro sports are best when both teams are elite, or when they’re even, and the Leafs know they have some catching up to do against Boston.

“They have come out on top in recent years, so it’s our turn to push back,” Nazem Kadri said on Friday. “That being said, it’s not going to be easy.

“It’s two historic franchises with great players and great success in the past, so I think there is always going to be (a rivalry) there.”

The Leafs lost on Nov. 10 in Boston, falling 5-1 after dominating the first period. On Nov. 26 in Toronto, the Leafs lost 4-2.

The final regular-season meeting between the clubs this season comes on Jan. 12 in Toronto.
Of course, there could be another collision in the playoffs next spring. The Leafs and Bruins have met 15 times in the post-season, with Toronto winning eight of those series.

Source:: Toronto Sun – Movies