“Every time we have played them, they have tried to come and run us out of the building to start games. We come back, we’re physical, and now we are a dirty team?”

Wayne Simmonds was pulling no punches after practice on Friday when asked about the Jets’ reaction to various incidents in Thursday night’s Leafs 5-3 win over Winnipeg. The Alex Galchenyuk hit that knocked Adam Lowry out of the game was a focal point in the Winnipeg media, in addition to the Joe Thornton hit on Mathieu Perreault that landed Thornton a $3k fine from the NHL Department of Player Safety on Friday.

“It looked late and high,” said Jets captain Blake Wheeler of Galchenyuk’s hit on Adam Lowry. “[Lowry] is six inches taller than [Galchenyuk], so you have to get pretty high to get him.”

“I don’t buy that [we’re dirty],” said Simmonds. “We are defending ourselves. We are playing the game physically. It is playoff hockey.”

Unsurprisingly, Simmonds was involved in the physical mix himself when he took a two-minute minor to defend goaltender Jack Campbell after an extra dig by Pierre-Luc Dubois following the whistle.

“I am sick of guys jumping on our goalie and being allowed to spear our goalie after plays and the refs not calling it,” said Simmonds. “That was my process there.”

For his part, Dubois was complimentary of the Leafs‘ ability to compete and grind in addition to their skill level — something that might not have been an apt description of previous Leafs teams in recent history.

“Yes, they have talent, but their compete level is at a high level,” said Dubois. “They play physical when they have to. You mentioned a few plays, but I remember a few other players in my head. They play hard… I have always said that in the playoffs, the teams that win are the teams that don’t just have one identity but can play multiples types of games.”

“When it is physical, they can play physical. When it is offensive or defensive, they can play offensive or defensive. The Leafs have shown that they are not just a one-dimensional team. We are also not just a one-dimensional team. It is a good matchup every night. If it gets physical, we can definitely play that game also.”

For a schedule that includes nine or 10 matchups against each Canadian opponent, the Leafs‘ season in the North Division has been surprisingly light on this kind of bad-blooded antagonism this season. The magnitude of the game in the standings might reduce the odds of any spillover, but it all makes for an intriguing storyline heading into Saturday’s rematch.

Jets head coach Paul Maurice refused to take the bait after the game or after practice when asked about possible retaliation in the rematch.

“If you circle a guy’s name on the board, you get sued.”

Asked whether the Leafs are a “dirty team,” Maurice quipped, “I don’t think so… The league has said they are not, so we will abide by the league’s rulings. But they are a poorer team with the fines. They’ll be looking at some part-time jobs now because that’s got to hurt.”

See you on Saturday night.