MUST WATCH! Auston Matthews and Matthew Knies destroy pair of Predators within seconds of one another

Mike Armenti
December 10, 2023  (10:44)

One of the biggest narratives surrounding this Maple Leafs team in recent years has been that they're "soft" or "easy to play against", despite the fact that they've maintained a pretty strong physical presence year-over-year.

Earlier this season, Boston's Brad Marchand took out the feet of young defenseman Timothy Liljegren, causing the Swedish defenseman to crash into the boards feet-first and leaving him with a nasty high-ankle sprain. Much to the chagrin of Leaf fans, there was no response from the Leafs, other than Ryan Reaves chirping from the bench. That did not sit well with the fans or the organization.
Following the loss to Boston on November 2nd, both Sheldon Keefe and Brad Treliving addressed the entire team, putting their foot down and emphasizing a need for the players to support one another and stand up for each other on the ice each and every night. Since that conversation had occurred, the Leafs have not only stood up for themselves and each other, they've also been a much more physical team.
Last night, during their game against the Nashville Predators, the Leafs' physicality was on full display in the first period, with Auston Matthews and Matthew Knies absolutely drilling a pair of Preds just seconds apart to battle for the puck and send play in the right direction.
Both Knies and Matthews are big, big boys. Knies stands 6-foot-3 and 217 pounds, while Matthews stands 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds. If they want to impose their will on opposing players, there's not many people who could stop them. That's why it's been nice to see them throw their bodies around and use their size to their advantage.
Matthews is on his way to smashing his single season high in hit totals (78 hits in 74 games last season). So far this year, Matthews has racked up an incredible 33 hits in 24 games, which equates to 113 hits over 82 games. Meanwhile, Knies leads all Maple Leafs players with 46 hits on the season, which equates to about 157 hits over the course of the season. Jake McCabe, Ryan Reaves and Noah Gregor have also thrown 40 or more hits through the team's first 24 games of the season.
With the Leafs' new-found edge, they're going to be a very hard team to play against the rest of the way this season and if they continue to build these habits throughout the year, they should be a force to be reckoned with in the postseason as well.
MUST WATCH! Auston Matthews and Matthew Knies destroy pair of Predators within seconds of one another

Who will lead the Maple Leafs in hits by the end of the year?

Knies20739.4 %
Reaves295.5 %
McCabe23143.9 %
Other5911.2 %
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