Calgary Flames Matthew Tkachuk Hit Lacked Intention, but Warranted Response

Blake Wheeler of the Winnipeg Jets and Matthew Tkachuk of the Calgary Flames fighting
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Minutes into Game One of the Winnipeg JetsCalgary Flames qualifying round series Friday night, Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk had himself in the centre of controversy.

Tkachuk had finished his check on Jets star forward Mark Scheifele, who went down in agony while clenching his left leg. Scheifele did not return with what’s expected to be a serious knee or Achilles injury as a result of his awkward collision into the boards.

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Matthew Tkachuk Hit on Mark Scheifele

Full disclosure, I’m born and raised in Winnipeg although I would not refer to myself as a Winnipeg Jets fan. In fact, these days my hockey team “fandom” is slowly drifting away — I appreciate the storylines and in-game action more than rooting for specific teams.

That said, you can’t pin Matthew Tkachuk’s hit as an intentional skate raise to cause injury.

Growing up playing high-level hockey for nearly 20 years, I can confidently say Tkachuk’s skate lifting up was not inspired by a premeditated attack. The result of the hit understandably provoked a ton of anger from Winnipeg’s organization and fanbase. It was also an awkward collision without malicious intent, given the speed of the actual hit.

Slowing the clip down does show Tkachuk’s right skate blade trending upwards before making contact. Slowing the clip down also means you’re looking at a split-second reaction — and if anything shows Tkachuk’s blade skipping up as he attempts to stop.

It’s a terrible, unfortunate result but there’s just no realistic chance that Tkachuk tilted his skate blade in the perfect angle to slice Scheifele’s Achilles.

Blake Wheeler

Moments after Matthew Tkachuk’s hit, Winnipeg captain Blake Wheeler challenged Tkachuk to a fight. First off, kudos to Wheeler for stepping up for his teammate. Although Wheeler probably wanted a better result in the scrap, it’s the kind of response you want to see from your captain — regardless of whether he even saw the hit.

Emotions were at an all-time high after Winnipeg lost their superstar forward. Wheeler had to answer to the questionable, but not dirty, hit and did exactly such.

Secondly, kudos to Tkachuk for not having any issue answering the bell. We’ve seen this before with Tkachuk’s antics against the Edmonton Oilers and fighting Zack Kassian. Tkachuk’s clearly aware of his decisions and is not afraid to drop the mitts as a result.

Cody Eakin

The only issue with the Jets’ response to Tkachuk’s hit was with Cody Eakin. With just over three minutes to go in the second period, Eakin caught Tkachuk with a not so accidental knee/trip. Eakin was rightfully called for interference with the Flames up 2-1.

Calgary’s Mikael Backlund scored on the ensuing power play, a pivotal turning point. Winnipeg never found their footing after going down by two and eventually losing 4-1.

Eakin’s decision was undisciplined, to say the least. There’s no problem with responding to Tkachuk, but you can’t be hurting your team while doing so. Wheeler’s fight kept the game at five-on-five, but Eakin’s directly affected his team in a negative way.

Paul Maurice

During his post-game press conference Winnipeg Jets head coach Paul Maurice, as expected, did not hold back on his view of Tkachuk’s hit.

For those unable to hear the video, Maurice’s comment were as follows:

“It was intentional. It was a filthy, dirty kick to the back of the leg. You can’t see it on the program feed, but take the blue-line feed and you zoom in. He went after the back of the leg. He could have cut his Achilles. He could have ended the man’s career. It’s an absolutely filthy, disgusting hit.”

While Maurice’s comments are indeed a reach and overdramatization, I both admire and respect the reaction of the  Jets’ head honcho. As a coach and therefore leader, Maurice’s comments show he’s willing to ride with his men inside the locker room no matter what. It’s what you crave from your leaders — your Maurice’s, Wheeler’s, and so on.

After last night, the Jets are in a massive hole. Losing Scheifele makes winning three of their next four games to stay alive no easy task for Winnipeg. But if there is any positive from last night, it’s the Jets are a unified group willing to battle for one another. It’s now a matter of turning this compete into on-ice success.

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