Ryan Reaves mocks Matthew Tkachuk after disingenuous fight challenge

Mike Armenti
April 3, 2024  (3:41 PM)

Matthew Tkachuk chewing away on his mouth guard
Photo credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Toronto Maple Leafs forward Ryan Reaves seemed to be amused by Florida Panthers winger Matthew Tkachuk on Monday, mocking Tkachuk after a pathetic and disingenuous fight challenge.

Obviously, this one would have been a bit of a mismatch, so let's get that out of the way right now. Matthew Tkachuk may be scrappy and feisty, but he's nowhere near the level of nasty that Ryan Reaves is when the gloves come off. That's why when Tkachuk issued the challenge, Reaves was very quick to laugh it off in true NHL veteran fashion.
The play occurred at 15:29 of the second period following a stoppage in play as Reaves was tied up with Tkachuk. In the clip below, you can clearly see Reaves and Tkachuk tied up with one another, jawing back and forth. However, it wasn't until the officials stepped in to peel them apart that Tkachuk appeared to issue the challenge. Reaves' reaction was absolutely priceless, mocking Tkachuk with a huge smile on his face.
Reaves has 156 fighting majors under his belt in his NHL career, including some fights against some very tough customers, while Tkachuk has managed just 24 career fighting majors. Some of the enforcers on Reavo's highlight reel include Brian McGratton, Adam McQuaid, Kyle Clifford, George Parros, Arber Xhekaj and Nicolas Deslauriers. Tkachuk has fought some tough customers, like Zack Kassian, Ryan Kesler and Ben Chiarot as well, but he tends to target other skilled players in fights, as he has also dropped the gloves with players like Mark Scheifele, Drake Batherson and James Neal.
There's just absolutely no way Reaves even entertains this unless it's in the playoffs and unless Tkachuk does something really stupid to actually deserve the type of beatdown Reavo would give him.

After a rocky start in Toronto, Reaves has been exactly as advertised in the second half of the season for the Maple Leafs

Reaves has played much more hockey than expected for the Maple Leafs in the second half of the season. After a lengthy layoff in December following an unfortunate knee injury against the Columbus Blue Jackets, Reaves went about 6 weeks without playing game for the Leafs.
At the time, it was believed that Reavo was simply dealing with the injury, but when he came out and confirmed that he was healthy and could have been playing for a few weeks, it sparked a lot of speculation over whether or not there was some sort of a rift that had formed between he and Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe. However, that speculation has since been put to rest, as Reaves has played in 22 games for the Leafs since January 27th, racking up 3 fighting majors and 4 points over that span.
Reaves has been doing a much better job of late getting in on the forecheck, being physical and not taking bad penalties. He has carved out a nice role for himself on the Leafs' fourth line and may end up being an important depth player for them in the postseason with the experience, leadership and tenacity that he brings to the table.

Reaves is also quite the character and has certainly created some memorable moments in his first season in Toronto

Reaves has been a fun player to have around in Toronto this season. Regardless of whether or not he's been in the lineup, his personality has been consistently good throughout the year, and he has provided us with some interesting comments and clips to chuckle over, including his postgame chat with Sportsnet's Shawn McKenzie on Monday.
In the clip below, towards the end of the interview, Reaves gave McKenzie the gears over not being able to go "tarps off" during postgame interviews. He joked about wanting to be able to take his shirt off to be able to maintain pace with the NBA and NFL in terms of marketability. Reavo is truly one of a kind.
Reaves should have a spot reserved for him on the Leafs' playoff roster for Game 1 of their probable 1st round series against Florida
There's been a lot of talk about who might be on the sidelines to start the playoffs for the Leafs, especially if they draw Florida in the first round. Obviously, the Leafs are a very deep team and they have plenty of bodies available who can give them valuable minutes. However, nobody on the roster can replicate the type of presence that Reaves brings. There aren't any other players on the roster who are feared and respected the way he is for the way he delivers his hits and how fierce he is when the gloves come off. He's also the Leafs' most vocal player on the bench and he's been in the deep waters in the playoffs.
At this point, I'd imagine that the bubble players in Toronto consist of Reaves, Pontus Holmberg, Noah Gregor and Nick Robertson. With Mitch Marner due back this weekend and Calle Jarnkrok likely expected to be healthy in time for the playoffs, it's going to force multiple players to the press box. Reaves is just doing his best right now to ensure that it isn't him coming out of the lineup.
Reaves has thrown 16 hits in his last 4 games combined and has played more than 10 minutes of ice time in 3 of those 4 outings. He has just 1 point across those games, but Reavo isn't being paid to go out there and score goals. He's being paid to patrol the ice and be a pain in the ass to play against out there. I'd say he's done well in that category.
Time will tell whether or not Reavo is in the lineup for Game 1, but if it's me, I'm putting him in there, because you know that first game of the series is going to be a tone-setter, with plenty of rough stuff - and in the playoffs, it's better to be doing the pushing than it is to be the ones being pushed around.
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Ryan Reaves mocks Matthew Tkachuk after disingenuous fight challenge

Will Matthew Tkachuk and Ryan Reaves drop the gloves with one another in the playoffs?

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