A quick mix of the things we gleaned from the week of hockey, serious and less so, and rolling four lines deep. Apologies: This blog was only published due to human error.
1. Just as the Toronto Maple Leafs are sticking up for one another on the ice, coach Sheldon Keefe is sticking up for his superstar off it.
Seldom one to rip the refs, Keefe did so in a passive-aggressive (i.e., fine-dodging) way this week, following the Pierre-Luc Dubois ragdoll job of Auston Matthews. Both centres were given roughing minors for this interaction Sunday,
Keefe was asked if NHL stars absorb too much unpenalized abuse.
“If I'm not mistaken, I don't think Auston has drawn a penalty the entire season. Which is strange [considering] how much he has the puck and how involved he is. So those kind of things, I think, are worth looking at if you're involved with that,” Keefe said.
(According NaturalStatTrick.com, Matthews has drawn one penalty at 5-on-5. But the point stands.)
The Leafs are a top possession team, yet they only rank 24th overall in penalties drawn (3.33 per 60 minutes).
“Not just with Auston but some of our other guys. I thought a lot about this because in my time here we've gone through a lot of stretches where it's been difficult to draw penalties. The thing that I'm drawn to a lot — and I think it happens with a lot of the elite players in the league — I think they're so good that they skate through a lot of crap,” Keefe suggests.
“There’s a lot of players, you get a stick on them, or you get a body on them, they fall off a stride and they lose the puck, or they fall down. There's a lot of our players, and Auston certainly is one, that they just skate right through all that stuff.
“They just speed through a lot of trouble, a lot of traffic, and there's a lot of it that gets in their way. I think the elite players, those things disrupt them less, so it doesn't get the attention of the officials as much as it would others that just don't have the ability to sustain their play through that.
“Mitch Marner, even though he’s not as big, is very similar because he skates through a lot of that. John Tavares is just a bull; he skates through it. Willie [Nylander] same kinda thing.”
I do believe the coach was simply giving a thoughtful response to a fair question, but calling public attention isn’t the worst strategy.
Much was made about the lack of whistles thrown Connor McDavid’s way last season.
McDavid now ranks second leaguewide (to Joel Eriksson Ek) is penalties drawn (17), per NaturalStatTrick.