Auston Matthews shows Ryan Reaves a lot of respect after win over Habs

Mike Armenti
April 7, 2024  (11:52)

Auston Matthews and the Leafs' bench enjoying every second of a Ryan Reaves fight
Photo credit: NHL

After last night's huge win against the Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs franchise cornerstone Auston Matthews really pumped the tires of teammate Ryan Reaves.

On an evening where Matthews recorded his 100th point, becoming just the 3rd Leaf in franchise history to reach that milestone twice (the other two being Doug Gilmour and Darryl Sittler), you'd think that all the talk would be about the NHL's scoring leader. However, when he sat in front of the cameras on Saturday, Matthews chose to highlight the impact that Ryan Reaves has had on this team.
Last night in Montreal, Reaves was once again solid in all 3 zones. Reaves fired one shot on goal last night, landed a big hit and blocked two shots for the Buds in a 4-2 victory over the Habs in just under 7 minutes of ice time. He also added a fighting major and 5 penalty minutes to his stat line when he took a lion-sized bite out of Canadiens forward Michael Pezzetta in a thrilling 2nd period fight, which he won handily, in true Reaves fashion.
Once again, just 3 days after dropping the gloves with Tampa Bay's Tanner Jeannot, for the second consecutive game, Reaves had the Leafs' bench up on their feet, watching intently as he dispatched of his foe.Matthews was once again perhaps the most animated Leaf on the bench during the fight. He has really come to respect and appreciate Reaves for what he does, even if the two players are nothing alike out on the ice.
"He's just an animal, honestly. He's a beast. It's moments like those [fight with Pezzetta] where you really realize how important he is to the team ... I love watching him do what he does. He's the best in the world at it for a reason"
- Matthews on Reaves adding a lot of value to the Maple Leafs this season

In the glory days of the NHL, it was not uncommon for a team's most elite player to have a great amount of respect and adoration for an enforcer, as the scrappers would patrol the ice to ensure that nobody took liberties on his teammates - particularly the skilled guys. Wayne Gretzky had Dave Semenko in Edmonton and Marty McSorley in Los Angeles, Bobby Orr had Terry O'Reilly in Boston, Mats Sundin had Tie Domi in Toronto, and Steve Yzerman had Bob Probert in Detroit. Players like Reavo might be a dying breed in today's NHL, but at 37, Reaves has shown this season that he still has plenty of gas left in the tank, and it's not hard to see why Matthews appreciates him as much as he does.
Reaves' fight last night on Hockey Night in Canada was his 7th fighting major of the season. He has also landed an impressive 21 hits over his last 5 games combined. He may only have one point over that span, but I don't think anyone is under any false pretenses as to why Reaves is in Toronto. It sure as hell isn't to rack up points.
Reaves is in the first year of a 3-year deal with the Leafs worth $1.35M per season. Yes, he has struggled at times this season, but it's not a stretch to suggest that the Leafs have gotten their money's worth with Reaves in year one of the deal.
I'll be interested to see what happens over the course of the remaining 6 games in terms of how Sheldon Keefe will handle his lineup decision. We know that after 2 fights in two games, Reaves' hands are pretty banged up, so it shouldn't come as a surprise if he finds himself with a night or two off next week.
For Matthews, it's even more unclear. The 2016 1st overall pick has surpassed 100 points, but he's also still chasing 70 goals, which is still very much in reach. Both Keefe and Matthews have expressed that they're not overly concerned with the 70-goal milestone, as cool as that would be. At this point, it's all about the playoffs.
Coming into the playoffs, it's uncertain at this point how much Reaves will play, but in my opinion, he's certainly done enough to deserve a roster spot for Game 1. If you were to ask Matthews, I'm sure he'd say the same.
7 AVRIL   |   303 ANSWERS
Auston Matthews shows Ryan Reaves a lot of respect after win over Habs

Will Auston Matthews have more points than Ryan Reaves will have penalty minutes in the playoffs for the Maple Leafs?

Auston's points will be higher than Reaves' PIMs12440.9 %
Reaves' PIMs will be higher than Matthews' points9832.3 %
Not sure, but this is a fun question8126.7 %
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