Maple Leafs react to Matthew Tkachuk spear: 'It's child's play'

Matthew Tkachuk knows how to use his stick to produce offense for the Calgary Flames, but for the second time in three weeks, his stick is getting attention for reasons other than putting the puck in the net.

As a result, the second-year pro will meet with the league’s Department of Player Safety on Thursday.

The night before, Tkachuk was caught on video spearing Matt Martin from the bench during a scrum along the boards in the first period of a 2-1 shootout loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs. Martin knocked Troy Brouwer down against the boards in front of the Flames bench with 5:53 remaining in the period and as Curtis Lazar skated over to confront Martin, Tkachuk, who was standing on the bench, reached over the boards and speared the Maple Leafs forward.

Martin claimed he did not even realize what happened until informed by the Maple Leafs media relations staff after the game.

“Apparently, I just saw it. I didn’t feel it at the time, I guess if he’s going to do stuff like that he should probably make it count,” said Martin. “It’s whatever, it’s child’s play. I don’t really get involved with that kind of stuff. I just found out about it. Our PR staff told me you wanted to talk to me, I asked why and they showed me the video.”

He jokingly added, “I’m fine if you guys were concerned.”

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Tkachuk was not assessed a penalty on the play.

Whether or not Tkachuk is suspended or fined, Martin said, is of little importance to him.

“It’s not really my call. I don’t really get involved with that,” said Martin. “It’s his second time over the last little while I’ve seen him do something like that. Like I said, if you’re going to do it you might as well make it count and try to hurt somebody if you’re going to do something stupid.”

Tkachuk was not made available to the media after the game.

When asked about the incident, Flames coach Glen Gulutzan responded, “Didn’t see it.”

Three weeks ago, Tkachuk was at the center of attention when he slashed Luke Witkowski of the Detroit Red Wings on the leg as Witkowski exited the ice after being ejected from the game. Witkowski immediately returned to the ice, setting off a brawl. The Red Wings went on to win the game 8-2.

Tkachuk received a five minute major penalty for spearing on the play and a game misconduct. He was subsequently suspended – for the second time in his career – for one game due to unsportsmanlike conduct.

Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock said he admires the type of game Tkachuk plays between the whistles, but that he sees no place for the extra stick work.

“That’s junior hockey stuff,” said Babcock. “So he’ll learn over time. You’ve got to give Tkachuk credit, he played a good game, he played hard. There’s no reason for that stuff.”

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Tkachuk, still 19 until his birthday on December 11, has been impressive early in his NHL career recording 65 points (17 goals, 48 assists) and 134 penalty minutes in 103 games. Clearly the type of player who likes to walk a fine line when it comes to agitating opponents, Tkachuk is still learning where the line is.

“You can play with an edge for sure. I think he’s an effective player, I think he’s a good player, but when you’re sitting on the bench or in the situation in Detroit when he gives a guy a whack when he’s already off the ice, I think that’s not really necessary,” said Martin. “Like I said I didn’t feel [the spear tonight], I’m fine. Whether the league wants to look at it or not, that’s up to them. I don’t think it’s a good hockey play by means, but I’ll be alright.”

While the spear was unnecessary, Tkachuk otherwise was effective against the Maple Leafs. In the second period, he made contact with goaltender Frederik Andersen’s head while in the goal crease as he crashed the net looking for a deflection. Andersen appeared stunned at first, but then proceeded to give Tkachuk a few shoves before getting up and ultimately remaining in the game.

“You’ve got to get yourself calmed down again for the next shift, but emotions were running pretty high,” said Andersen, who was not going to be knocked off his game on Wednesday, finishing with a season-high 47 saves. “I don’t think he tried really to avoid me too much, but that’s for the referee to decide.”

On his next shift, Tkachuk drew a cross checking penalty from Maple Leafs defenseman Jake Gardiner.

Tkachuk was the lone Flame to beat Andersen in the four-round shootout.

Martin did not like how often Tkachuk was in the face of Andersen, but acknowledged there was not much that could be done to dissuade him in a close game, especially if he was managing to avoid penalty calls.

“He’s an effective player and he’s always around the net and he plays kind of a chippy, edgy game,” said Martin. “He didn’t get any penalty calls against him so it’s kind of hard in a 1-1 game to do anything about stuff like that. Obviously winning is the most important thing but in terms of being around the net he walked the line just fine because he didn’t get any penalties.”

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