We Need A Leafs-Jets Playoff Series
Source: Claus Andersen/Getty Images
The Leafs and Jets clashed in a two-game series, and the intensity was cranked up! With the Leafs entering last Thursday's game with a 4 point lead over the second-place Jets, both teams were playing as though their lives depended on it. The physicality the Leafs brought in didn't sit well with the Jets. Some were even calling the Leafs a "cheap" team. It did prompt Leafs forward Wayne Simmonds to say this:
“Every time we've played them, they've tried to run us out of the building to start games. We come back & we're physical & now we're a dirty team? I don't buy that. We’re defending ourselves”
Jets winger Pierre Luc Dubois took a run at Jack Campbell in the first period of their Thursday matchup, which Simmonds stood up for his goaltender and grabbed the Jets forward away from his goalie and proceeded to push him out of the crease. The Leafs have dealt with significant injuries to their goalies and can't afford to see Campbell going down, especially with Andersen still inactive.
Also, what added fuel to the fire was a non-call on Leafs Alex Galchenyuk hit Adam Lowry, which the newly Leaf looked to take a run at Lowry's head. Lowry didn't return after that hit. Don't forget a week prior, Hyman's late third period slash on Neal Pionk that got the Leafs forward a maximum fine of 5,000. The Jets didn't seem to forget what Hyman did.
Paul Maurice didn't think the Leafs are a dirty team but did add that they are a "poor" team, and the fines will hurt their pockets, adding they should be looking for part-time gigs. A not-so-subtle shot from the Jets coach.
It felt like a playoff matchup. The Leafs beat the Jets on Thursday with a 5-3 victory that had both teams scoring five goals combined in the opening period. Toronto was up 2-0 until the Jets erased the deficit. Though, the Leafs finished with three unanswered goals. Toronto was coming into this matchup against Winnipeg, losers of 5 straight.
Then Saturday happened. Still fresh off of their Thursday matchup, more fireworks started. Joe Thornton and Nik Ehlers were jawing back and forth in an entertaining/comical sense. Both guys were trading cross-checks and slashes. Jumbo Joe broke his stick while cross-checking Ehlers and got another stick to cross-check Ehlers for the second time on the same shift. Folks, it's the rivalry we didn't think we needed but definitely would welcome it with open arms.
Both went to the penalty box with Thornton continuously chirping the Jets player. Impressively, 42-year-old Joe Thornton was fired up in the penalty box. Seriously? Who would expect this from the usually calm veteran forward? Recently the former first overall has shown a different attitude and emotion in his game. He also scored on Saturday against the Jets, becoming the oldest Leaf's player to score.
Rasmus Sandin delivered a beautiful hit to Jets captain Blake Wheeler, who just returned after missing six games. Kyle Connor stood up for his captain and proceeded to feed a few punches to the rookie defenceman. Even give the young defenceman a few slashes, which garnered just a two-minute penalty for roughing. Though, it showed the Jets weren't going to let the Leafs take a shot at their beloved captain.
Then we had Wayne Simmonds and Pierre Luc Dubois get kicked out of the game with a few minutes left in the game with their interaction. The Leafs had several fines. Joe Thornton, Alex Galchenyuk and Nick Foligno all got money taken out of their pockets. We had a hockey game, and Toronto beat the Jets twice in as many days. The offence sparked nine goals in the two meetings.
Simmonds and Thornton, who were the main focal point of their physical game, contributed with a goal each in the two games. They chased last year's Vezina winner Connor Hellebuyck on Thursday and beat him again on Saturday.
Though nobody was talking about the game, judging by the antics between both clubs, you can tell these guys are tired of playing one another. The Jets were thinking about retribution and trying to equal the Leafs' physicality but failed to do so and lost both meetings. Thursday produced just three penalties, but Saturday, both teams combined for 13 penalties. Things are getting rowdy.
Let's not forget the Jets swept Toronto in their three-game series in March and started to close the gap between them and the Leafs. Toronto has now won 4 straight, but it feels like the battle of the North division is still far from over.
The Leafs and Jets have historically never been a big rivalry but two passionate fan bases that would love to see their teams collide in the playoffs. Next season the league will go back to their old division format. So a Toronto-Winnipeg series can only happen this season.
I agree with the Armchair GM's article of needing a Leafs-Habs series in the playoffs. Not only is it the most historic rivalry in the sports history, but we've been deprived of the matchup since 1979. Though right now, the Leafs-Jets have that playoff hockey intensity. We've never witnessed a Jets-Leafs playoff series despite the two teams playing in the same conference before the Jets packed their bags to Phoenix.
No question, we can expect fireworks when they meet one more time before the playoffs and with the Jets still fighting to dethrone the Leafs for the one seed. You can expect more shenanigans to happen. Either way, the Jets-Leafs series looks more intriguing from what we saw this past weekend. I'm all in for a Winnipeg - Toronto playoff series. It's an old-school playoff battle with lots of physicality and offence.
Get that popcorn ready if it does happen!!! The love certainly isn't lost between these North division teams.