Lots of commentary these days about the GM meetings around the issue of fighting and the instigator rule. A corollary of that has somehow become a running story on guys like Matt Cooke, Cal Clutterbuck and Jarko Ruutu.
I’m somewhat ambivalent about the issue. The fact is, I still like to see the guys drop the mitts and go. Even staged fights. I have to admit, it gets my blood going just as a fan and I imagine a decisive victory for your team tough guy does even more than that for the players on the bench. Brings the blood up. Gets the head in the game as well as the heart. A good fight makes you stand up. A great fight can be talked about for months. I can’t imagine it will ever disappear from the game. There’s just too much speed, emotion and weaponry out there.
And yet…and yet. There is almost no fighting in the playoffs. Or on the world stage during the Championships…or the same stage at the Olympics. Now, you might argue that the world stage usually features a different kind of player. The big hitting guys and the big fighting guys don’t usually make an appearance at these tournaments.
But the Stanley Cup playoff lineups usually brings the entire roster onto the ice. And still fights are almost non-existent. Discipline means so much at times lack that. And it’s not like the hockey isn’t entertaining during the playoffs. If any thing, it is even more intense…with more hits and more emotion.
And almost no fights.
But the fact is, over an 82 game schedule, tempers will flare and fights will happen. And now they are talking about banning “staged” fights? What, you don’t think the tough guys won’t find a way around that? Of course they will. I’m one of the guys that figures that if they change anything, they should get rid of the instigator rule. It’s a short sighted penalty and it does not allow the players the requisite amount of self-policing.
I think they should concentrate on punishing the team brawls, certainly go after the cheap shot artists, and make double sure they stop the head shots. Otherwise the game is fine…okay, well, conceptually, I still don’t like the shoot-out…it’s a team sport and there is nothing wrong with a regular season tie…but that’s a different story for a different day.
And tonight the Ducks. Oh, man. How quickly we can go from one of the hottest teams in the league, with lots of breathing space in the playoff race…to worried about starting another losing streak. The Ducks are mired in their own woes, but this So-Cal team still has some outstanding hockey players. No need to name them…you know them as well as I do. We’ll have to get back to our A game tonight. And we need our goaltender to be our best player. Pretty simple after that.
Well, here’s what I saw: two teams that are not playing very well. We outshoot the Ducks by a large margin, but seriously, how many shots were from the dirty zone? Where you pay to play. How many shots came out as rebounds. I’ll tell you cause it’s the same answer for both. None. Zip. And that’s how many goals we scored.
And we allowed the Ducks a couple of major chances. The first one didn’t count because it entered underneath the net. But the second one, a gift to Selanne, one of the greatest scorers in the history of the game, was undeniable. They list it as unassisted, but that negates Henrik’s perfect dish. What was he doing? Watch the replay, he was looking for Daniel. Whoops.
The Ducks goal totally chages the game and we end up with rope burns on our back from backing up so much. Muhammed Ali had nothing on us in that period. We tool so many shots to the body after the Anaheim goal that Amnesty International should have launched an investigation.
It looked like our game up ‘til then but it wasn’t, not really. Again, our shots were all from the periphery. They can talk about Hiller’s rebound control but you have to get traffic to get rebounds. We did not do that.
And the word that comes to mind in the second period is, strange.
Strange because, against the run of the play we score two quick goals. First, the hardest working guy on the team tips one in. Who would have predicted a twenty goal season for Alexander the Great? And then Kyle Wellwood, who hasn’t scored in so long that I’d forgotten about him, pops one in between Hiller‘s pads. Magically, we are more than just back in it. The tie seems somewhat ethereal. Like it doesn’t really exist. And sure enough…
The Sedins are killing us tonight…and I’ve never said that before. A lazy back-check by Daniel just as the PP expires and the Ducks are back in the lead. But you want to talk about strange, how about the disallowed goal by Christensen? A goaltender interference penalty! Well, we’ll take it, but we are lucky to be coming out of this period down only one. I get this sensation, a feeling of frustration mixed with anger, when the Canucks aren’t working hard enough. And that is the simple truth: we aren’t working hard enough.
The third period was an odd one because the Ducks just outplayed us throughout the frame. But another nice little play by Demitra, deflected off Sundin to Kesler, and the other hardest working guy on the team gets his twentieth goal of the year to tie it up. No sense re-hashing much of the rest of it. Let’s just say that I haven’t seen so many odd man rushes, so many simple mistakes, so many lazy plays since the big losing streak. Roberto made a couple of big saves and so did Jonas Hiller. We looked cooked when Demitra took the penalty in OT and then we were salivating when it looked like we’d get our own chance when Selanne evened it up. Three on three hockey at the Pond. Perfect. But this was not a night in which JP Berry would have been looking for a huge raise for his clients. The twins were caught deep, maybe even as deep as Roberto was in the net on Scott Neidermayer’s breakaway and the game ends with a narrow Ducks victory. But it wasn’t so much last goal wins tonight, as it was last mistake loses.
And we made the last mistake.
It’s hard to be positive about an effort like tonight, but the fact is, it was a huge point. We are seven points up on the ninth place Minnesota Wild, with both teams having 16 games remaining. It is a huge point. Sure it dashes the dreams of home ice in the playoffs…but the point is more than just huge…it is Gigantic-huge.
On a night that we did not play well, that indeed is something to hang our dreams on.