Matthew Knies has been “a difference maker” for the Maple Leafs in two pivotal games vs. Lightning
Photo credit:Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
By Nick Barden7 months ago
Did anyone have Matthew Knies being on the ice for two massive goals to help propel the Maple Leafs over the Lightning in game 3 on their bingo card? I definitely didn’t.
The jump from college hockey to the NHL is quite a feat but the 20-year-old is making it look like child’s play.
Whether it’s winning puck battles, setting up players for goals, or just positioning on the ice, Knies is playing well above what the Maple Leafs could’ve asked for when they signed him just 15 days ago.
Knies was on the ice for Toronto’s two final goals on Saturday — each being massive situations — highlighting the trust that Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe has instilled in him.
“He’s shown that he’s a guy that can make a play and be a difference maker,” Keefe told reporters on Sunday in Tampa.
“It’s one thing to have the confidence and belief in yourself that you can make plays. It’s a whole other thing to make (those) plays.” Added Keefe.
Of all the games the 20-year-old has played in the NHL, Saturday’s was the one where he saw the most ice. Knies had more five-on-five minutes (17:42) than each of Calle Jarnkrok, David Kampf, Alex Kerfoot, Sam Lafferty, and Zach Aston-Reese.
Every moment Knies was out for a shift, he was noticeable. With that being said, the 20-year-old is now — after everyone, including myself, tried to temper expectations — showing that he belongs at this level. And the 20-year-old is even beginning to believe it himself, too.
“I think that I’m a little more mature than I thought I was.” Knies told reporters on Sunday while dawning a grin on his face.
Right off the hop before Game 2 when Knies was called upon, he answered the bell. The little plays offered a glimpse into what he could be, though the big plays? That’s him indicating that he’s arrived and he’s going to whatever he can to remain in Toronto’s lineup.
“I didn’t want to come here to be here,” Knies said. “I wanted to come here to be a difference, to be an impact.”
The 20-year-old secured his first playoff point on the opening goal of Game 3. Although it was a quick one-two play, Knies had Zach Bogosian breathing down his neck, and he still made the crisp pass to set up Acciari for the goal.
As Game 3 continued on, Knies would find himself sometimes alongside Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews, and at other moments beside John Tavares and William Nylander. Once a dream for the 20-year-old forward.
Knies stepped on the ice late in the first overtime period with O’Reilly and Nylander — hoping for a shot at a new feeling inside Amalie Arena — and he got just that.
The 20-year-old played a pivotal role in Morgan Rielly’s overtime winner as he skated in front of Andrei Vasilevskiy a mere second before the puck came fluttering towards the net. The rest, is and was, history.
It’s been an eventful last month for Knies. But now, with a push for a National Championship and signing with the Maple Leafs in the rearview mirror, the 20-year-old can focus on one thing: being a difference maker for Toronto in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
“(I want to) be there to contribute,” Knies said, “be there to make the difference.”
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