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Knee Jerk Reaction: Matthews scores 65th, delays Penguins’ clinching party

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Photo credit:Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
Alex Hobson
2 months ago
We’ve reached the stage of the season where the results of the games don’t matter (as much. They always matter). The Toronto Maple Leafs have clinched a playoff spot and at this point, winning games are for seeding purposes if the race calls for it or spoiling other teams’ playoff hopes. With the Pittsburgh Penguins knocking on the door of a playoff spot and former Leafs GM Kyle Dubas at the helm, the Leafs came away with two points despite a late effort to secure a point from the Penguins.
Auston Matthews is going to rob many of the headlines for scoring his 65th goal of the season, and honestly, why wouldn’t he? I remember being nine years old, watching Alex Ovechkin in awe as he scored 65 goals in my fourth season of watching hockey, and just thinking about how much of a different level he was on compared to other goal scorers. Nine-year-old me was blissfully unaware that a player on his favourite team growing up would eventually do the same, with five games remaining to break the record.
It’s been especially encouraging to see that the new-look forward lines have stayed together for two games in the wake of Marner’s return. For Sheldon Keefe to recognize how dangerous a spread-out offence on this team could be in the playoffs and elect not to get in his own way and mess with something that had been working is an encouraging development from a coach who’s been prone to doing so in the past.
One more thing worth touching on – Matthew Knies deserves some flowers for the way he’s been able to elevate his game over the past week and a bit. He’s got seven points in his last seven games with three goals in that span, and for a second round pick who has 15 goals and 35 points to go along with 159 hits (leads all forwards), the 21-year-old is putting the finishing touches on a very impressive rookie season. He looked like he belonged from the moment he stepped on the ice in the playoffs last season, and I expect him to elevate his game when the going gets tough in a couple of weeks.
Also, let’s take a moment to appreciate Jake McCabe’s apparent soft hands on the OT winner here.
Sorry Kyle, you’re gonna have to wait for the ‘x’ pal.

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