The Toronto Maple Leafs will be without Hart-candidate Auston Matthews for the next two matches, after he was given a two-game suspension from the Department of Player Safety. The ruling comes after Matthews delivered a cross-check to Buffalo Sabres defenseman Rasmus Dahlin in yesterday’s Heritage Classic. As the accompanying video explains:
While we acknowledge Matthews’ argument that this is not a cross-check meant to harm or injure his opponent, it is also not a routine motion to box out an opponent or gain body position. Having just been involved in a shoving match with Dahlin that knocked him into the net, Matthews aggressively retaliates by raising his stick significantly and creating this contact. This is a high, forceful cross-check that makes contact with an opponent’s neck with sufficient force to merit supplemental discipline.
Dahlin did not suffer a serious injury on the play, and Matthews does not have any history with the DoPS previously. In fact, the normally reserved Maple Leafs forward has only 68 penalty minutes in his entire career, no more than 14 in a single season. Still, this obvious show of frustration was one that immediately got the attention of the league and will end up costing him more than $116K in forfeited salary.
It will also put a closer watch on Matthews moving forward, as this incident will be considered when determining any future supplementary discipline.
More importantly, the scuffling Maple Leafs will now be without their best player as they try to get out of a tailspin that threatens to drop them out of an Atlantic Division playoff spot. The team has lost their last two and are 5-3-2 in their last ten, and now have just a two-point lead on the red-hot Boston Bruins.