In a recent interview, Steven Stamkos looked back over the recent playoffs with the Toronto Maple Leafs and took some time to explain the reason behind his fight with Auston Matthews. The story suggests how quickly the action of a game can happen and the responses are also quick.
Playoffs Are Intense and Things Happen Quickly
The intensity of playoff hockey can lead to some surprising and unexpected confrontations. Every game seems to bring on heated exchanges between opposing players. One surprising incident happened during the first-round series between the Maple Leafs and the Lightning. The two unexpected combatants were Lightning forward Steven Stamkos, who fought with Maple Leafs’ star Auston Matthews.
In a recent interview on the ‘Clearing the Crease’ podcast, Stamkos shed light on the reasons behind his decision to fight Matthews. It’s an interesting situation and Stamkos was quite honest about how things looked and how they might look at a later time.
The Incident that Sparked the Fight
During Game 3 of the team’s first-round series, a collision took place along the boards that resulted in Lightning teammate Brayden Point crashing hard into the boards. Because it happened so quickly, the hit appeared dangerous. When players turned their heads to loo, they saw Point moaning and (in Stamkos’ words) screaming in pain.
Stamkos was obviously concerned for his teammate’s well-being and felt he needed to respond to address what he thought was a dirty play. During this interview, Stamkos explained his thought process leading up to the fight. At the time, he believed the hit on Point was intentional and dangerous. However, he also admitted that he had not yet seen the replay to confirm.
Still, in the moment, because he was one of the team’s leaders, he felt a sense of responsibility. Stamkos then took matters into his own hands. He later admitted that he misread Morgan Rielly’s intentionality on the play.
What Did Auston Matthews Have to Do with All This?
Stamkos was clear that his decision to fight Matthews wasn’t anything personal against Matthews. However, it was simply that proximity fitted circumstance. As well, because Matthews was the Maple Leafs’ best player, Stamkos took the opportunity to send a message to the Maple Leafs as well as his own team by standing up for his injured teammate. Matthews just happened to be close. Hence, the tussle between the two star players.
While all this seems understandable, it’s funny that, although Stamkos initiated the fight, he didn’t receive an instigator penalty. This fact frustrated Maple Leafs’ head coach Sheldon Keefe (and many others). Especially problematic was the fact that, because Matthews was being restrained by officials, Stamkos was free to keep throwing punches. And, he did.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line in all this is that, for the first time in 19 years, the Maple Leafs won a playoff series. As all playoff clashes are, this one between the Maple Leafs and the Lightning was filled with intensity. Stamkos’ fight with Matthews during Game 3 was just one of the most memorable moments in the team’s playoff rivalry.
Good for Stamkos for two reasons. First, he demonstrated his commitment to protecting and standing up for his teammates. Second, he fessed up that he had made a bad call. Afterward, he admitted that he had misjudged the intensity of the hit on Point as well as the intentionality.
I suppose that’s just part of the competitive nature of playoff hockey, where emotions often run high.