When you think of some of the big rivalries in hockey, teams like Boston and Montreal, Toronto and Ottawa, Chicago and Detroit will probably be the first ones to think of. But as the NHL continues to change, we are beginning to see different teams develop rivalries.
Last night, we saw the Toronto Maple Leafs taking on the Winnipeg Jets in a high-spirited affair. The Leafs won the game 5-4 in overtime, evening out the season series to 1-1. The teams have both scored nine goals in each of the games, with both ending in overtime. These two games have been the kind of games that can make anyone watching excited.
This season, there has been a lot of hype around these games due to the fact that the media has created a rivalry between Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine, solely based on the fact that they went first and second in the draft. Both players have expressed that they have no interest in this fabricated rivalry, but nonetheless, it is still exciting to see these two players face-off.
Laine scored two goals last night, while Matthews had three assists, including one for the game winner. These two players are both world class, and so far it seems like both players are going to be very good for a long time, but this game was about a lot more than just them.
Each team had 17 penalty minutes and there were many times where there was pushing and shoving after the whistle. The intensity level was definitely high for both of these teams, since the Leafs and Jets are both fighting for every point in the standings.
Nazem Kadri is a player who thrives on high intensity situations, and he showed that in this game by scoring his 25th goal of the season and also laying a huge, questionable hit on Ben Chariot. Kadri was involved in any skirmish that he could possibly be in and was not going to back down to anyone.
Dustin Byfuglien is another player who rises to the occasion in important games, although in this one he may have hurt his team more than anything. He had a total of nine penalty minutes, including a goalie interference penalty that led to William Nylander’s game-tying goal.
It is hard to say if this is going to be a rivalry that really takes off, but for the sake of every hockey fan, I hope it does. Despite the great performances from Matthews and Laine, these two teams have shown that this rivalry will be more than just these two players.