The New York Islanders don’t like Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman, Mike Matheson. Near the final minutes of the 4-1 loss to the Penguins on Thursday, Matt Martin let Matheson know he had some things to atone for when he invited him for a fight. A fight Matheson declined.
After the game Islanders head coach Barry Trotz was asked about Martin’s “chat” with Matheson. Trotz indicated that: “Marty (Matt Martin) sent the message to him”. You’d have to think at some point over the next three games this month, Matheson will have to answer for his sins.
The Isles don’t like Mike Matheson and they’re justified in that sentiment.
New York Islanders are justified in their ill-feeling towards Mike Matheson
Matheson has been in the Islanders black book since the opening round of the 2020 playoffs when he caught Johnny Boychuk up high. A hit that effectively ended Boychuk’s hockey career.
Matheson caught Boychuk in the head as the Islanders defenseman crossed the o-zone blueline. (Watch how Matheson leaves his skates in the follow-through.) After the hit, Boychuk realized he didn’t see Matheson in time which told him it was time to hang up his skates.
Fast-forward to Thursday, Matheson drew the Isles ire again when he shoved Barzal into the board from behind. A play that Trotz called “a bit of a vicious cross-check” and that earned the Pens defenseman a two-minute minor for boarding.
That’s twice now that Mike Matheson makes a dirty play against the Islanders. Which is room enough for any ill-will the Islanders feel towards the Penguins defenseman. The fact that he declined an invitation by Matt Martin to fight – something that earned Martin 12 penalty minutes – will certainly anger them even more.
Two minutes into Thursday’s game saw Casey Ciizkas and Brandon Tanev drop the gloves after Tanev caught Cizikas with a low cross-check the last time the two teams met. That’s how it typically goes in the NHL. Unfortunately, Boychuk is no longer playing and Mathew Barzal isn’t about to drop the gloves against Matheson. Which is why Martin was the one to approach Matheson with an invitation to ‘dance’.
The Islanders clearly have seen enough of Matheson making dangerous plays against their teammates. A combined four penalty minutes on both the Boychuk and Barzal hits aren’t enough discipline where they feel Matheson will be de-incentivized from making a similar play again.
I doubt this means Ross Johnston steps into the lineup on Saturday, but I certainly expect the Islanders will let Matheson know his shenanigans won’t stand any longer.