During the third period of the Toronto Maple Leafs’ last game, a 5-2 win over the Philadelphia Flyers, an incident happened late in the third period. After the game had already been decided, Auston Matthews and Travis Konecny got into it.
The game had been physical all night; and, as the game was winding down, Konecny and Matthews – who had been going at each other all game – began to tussle. Both players were cross-checking and doing stick work on each other. From a Maple Leafs’ perspective, Konecny seemed to want to goad Matthews into a fight.
When Matthews resisted and Konecny persisted, Matthews teammates Mark Giordano and Michael Bunting literally jumped in to rescue their best player. They were not alone. Calle Jarnkrok and Rasmus Sandin also stood up to the Flyers in the melee that followed.
Should Matthews Have Answered Konecny’s Challenge?
The issue being discussed in the video below circles around the fact that Matthews did not engage Konecny. In fact, he stood outside the physicality of the incident watching. As well, he wore that patented smile he’s worn whenever he’s been pushed around or rag-dolled by the opposition.
The video’s conversation engaged the question of how Matthews acted when the chaos was occurring around him. Should he have engaged with Konecny; or, was he right to avoid injury by allowing his teammates to stand up for him?
The Video Captures the Conversation between Marek and Marchese
In the video, Jeff Marek and Matt Marchese begin by playing a clip of NHL Network’s Mike Rupp, who shares his thoughts about the incident. What particularly seems to get Rupp’s goat was Matthews’ reaction.
After the Rupp tape is played, Marek and Marchese then talk about whether Matthews should have “engaged” with someone. Or, was he right in backing away from the physicality all around him?
The Biggest Issue Was Matthews’ Body Language
The biggest problem brought out by the discussion seemed to be the body language Matthews used during the incident. None of the three commentators “really” believed Matthews should have fought. However, Marek was the most pragmatic about Matthews’ fighting.
Marek noted that no one in the Maple Leafs’ organization would want their star player, especially when he’d just come off wrist injuries last season, to risk hurting his hands in a fight. But he seemed alone in that perspective.
The other two – Rupp and Marchese – read Matthews as being disengaged and distant. Rupp and Marchese believed Matthews was happy enough smiling and watching.
Specifically, Rupp noted, when you “look at the body language here by Matthews, one arm is barely up like a wet noodle. Then, Matthews just looks down at the ice and won’t look anybody in the eyes.”
What’s This Smiling “Thing” with Matthews?
Rupp’s analysis is that Matthews is not only OK with “all these other extracurriculars” but just finds them amusing. In that “he’s just standing there and smiling.”
Their perception is that Matthews did wrong by acting cool and doing his “smiling thing” while his teammates took the brunt of the physical action around him. The question Rupp and Marchese left hanging was to wonder how Matthews’ attitude “played out in the (locker) room.”