Muzzin injury takes sheen off Leafs’ victory
Muzzin taken from the ice on a stretcher after awkward tumble in win over Jackets
In an empty, frigid and artificially noisy Scotiabank Arena, suddenly there was deafening silence early on a Tuesday evening.
Silence and fear. And nobody moving.
The 3-0 score didn’t seem to matter much with 112 seconds left to play. The Leafs were about to tie the best-of-five series against Columbus, when Jake Muzzin — father, husband, leader, professional hockey player — went down, before being taken from the ice on a stretcher.
The still sound of the building suddenly grew more uncomfortable.
It wasn’t one of those plays that will have the talk shows screaming on Wednesday morning. It was just hockey and the wrong kind of accident. And Muzzin’s head collided with the knee of Oliver Bjorkstrand after he had lost his balance on a cross check by Pierre-Luc Dubois and then, after a few seconds that seemed like a lot more than that, the first responders with the stretcher raced onto the ice.
Mitch Marner skated near his teammate to ask how he was doing.
“They said give him a second,” said Marner, not indicating who they were. But this is an athlete’s worst fear, those who are hurt and those who are not.
“A lot of things go through your mind,” said Marner. “When he did go down and stayed down ... we’re all praying for him . ...
“There are a lot more important things than hockey.”
In the midst of this world-altering pandemic and with social discourse in North America at an all-time high, the return of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in early August seems rather unimportant in the big picture. But the Maple Leafs are so much a fabric of this city and hockey is so much a fabric of our country, that for a moment and maybe longer, Muzzin’s health was and should have been of grave concern.
On every team, players hold down so many roles. Some make you laugh. Some win you games. Some lead, some follow. Some play on the edge. Some play like they don’t belong. And you never really succeed in a sport such as this without a Jake Muzzin or three in your lineup.
The captain, John Tavares, who might have played his absolute best game as a Leaf with all the desperation surrounding Game 2, described Muzzin’s contribution to the Leafs as “unmeasurable.” Tavares might have been the story on Tuesday, with so much pressure on him, so much for him to carry around in his second season with the Leafs.
The Leafs were all ready to celebrate their 3-0 shutout win, but nobody felt much like celebrating in the end.
You can’t feel that way when you’re not entirely certain how your friend and teammate is doing.
“No question, seeing one of your teammates go down, a guy like Muzz, you know the type of warrior he is. What he brings to our team is unmeasurable,” Tavares said.
Only you can measure a lot of it. On a team defensively challenged, he’s a rock. He kills penalties. He plays against the best forwards on the opposition. He brings a maturity that all young teams need, and if any of the kids want a peek at his Stanley Cup ring from Los Angeles, he can probably show them that, too.
Still, as Tavares said, it was “tough to see.”
“It’s difficult,” said Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen, after recording his first playoff shutout since leaving Anaheim. “A guy like Jake who everyone cares about. Being as tough as he is, seeing him down.” He hopes “all the right steps are being taken.”
It looked like a concussion, but there are no injury updates in the NHL in this playoff season. Coach Sheldon Keefe said that Muzzin had been taken to hospital, breaking the double secret probation regulations that all hockey people are now sworn to, and told us Muzzin “was responsive.”
Leaving the bubble for the hospital comes with some kind of regulations, but no one I talked to seemed certain as to what they are. If it’s a concussion though, and it looked that way, then Muzzin’s series is over. The Leafs will have to continue without their steadiest and strongest defenceman.
Muzzin plays important minutes. He hits people. He leads. And on an uneven Leafs defence, where putting together pairs is challenging in itself, losing Muzzin makes it all the more challenging.
It’s likely Martin Marincin will play in Game 3 and Marincin is thought to be a reasonable penalty killer.
The rest of the time, there’s a reason Muzzin is No. 1 or No. 2 on the Leafs’ list of defencemen and Marincin is No. 7 or No. 8.
Now the team waits for an update of some kind — the public will get something like Muzzin is “unfit to play.”
And like Marner and his teammates, we wait and hope and pray that everything with Jake Muzzin will be all right. email@example.com twitter.com/simmonssteve
Leafs defenceman Jake Muzzin is carried off the ice on a stretcher late in the third period of Toronto’s 3-0 win over Columbus Tuesday.