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A day after goalie fights took center stage, Scott Burnside and Pierre LeBrun break down Thursday's fight night in the NHL:
Burnside: Well, Thursday night was Bad Blood Night in the NHL. Three fights in the first four seconds of the Boston/Dallas game was the result of lingering bad blood between a number of players from both teams, including Steve Ott and Gregory Campbell, son of the NHL's lord of discipline. That means Colin Campbell won't be ruling on the devastating hit to the head Boston's Daniel Paille put on Raymond Sawada that sparked even more ugliness in a game won by the Bruins. Then there was Jay Rosehill, interim Toronto tough guy, taking on Carolina's Tim Gleason after Gleason's mildly controversial punchout of Nikolai Kulemin before the All-Star break. Perhaps even more surprising: the Leafs' second win since the break, prompting whispers of a run to the playoffs!
LeBrun: Scotty, the 1970s called and wanted back the first four seconds of that Stars-Bruins tilt. I used that line on Twitter last night; I love it so much, I had to use it again. Hockey players have the memories of elephants. Campbell was nailed by an Ott blindside hit in March 2009 when he was still playing for Florida. When the Panthers and Stars hooked up last season, Ott was already suspended for a separate incident and missed the game. Rain check, Campbell thought. And then, last night, they went at it, with Campbell even leaving his natural center position to line up on the wing beside Ott to drop the gloves. Love it.
Campbell got the worst of it, but good on him for doing the manly thing and defending his honor. Some things aren't lost in this game, after all. But really, Toronto's win aside, the real news of the night belonged to Paille, whose blindside hit cost him a match penalty under the new head shot rule. Paille is not a dirty player, but that was a dirty play. And yes, the NHL's Mike Murphy handled the Paille hearing Friday morning and the Bruins forward was suspended four games for that hit.
Burnside: Yes, Pierre, the Paille hit seemed to be a classic Rule 48 hit, and I thought it would be in the 6-10 game range. Of course, the league's handling of supplemental discipline often leaves me shocked, flabbergasted, aghast and weary.
Beyond the hits and fights, the Boston/Dallas game also revealed a Stars team that seems to be on the verge of freefall. Dallas is 1-4-0 in its past five games and has given up 24 goals in those four losses. Dallas still leads San Jose by five points, but the Sharks are coming.
As for the Bruins, they just keep winning, although there is more than a little irony at play here given that their top center, Marc Savard, has never been right since being blindsided by Matt Cooke almost a year ago. A few weeks back, he was taken hard into the boards by former teammate Matt Hunwick on a clean play, but that was enough to sideline Savard again, and there are real concerns he may not play again this season.
LeBrun: Wow, six to 10? I think you're being a little harsh. My guess was 3-4 games.
Savard is being evaluated by doctors Friday and all the armchair quarterbacks expect his season will be shut down. Sad. And yes, you can't discount the irony. Credit Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference for telling it like it is, even though it involved a teammate.
"It's a bad hit, right? That's what they're trying to get rid of and you can't be hypocritical about it when it happens to you and say it's fine when your teammate does it," Ference told reporters after the game. "You hear it from every player after they do it; they feel bad. I talked to Danny and he feels bad. It's tough, that back-checking forward, to make those kind of hits. It's so hard to do it in a clean fashion with the new rules."
You can't have it both ways. Everyone and their mother in Boston wanted Cooke banned last season. Now, the shoe's on the other foot. Speaking of the shoe being on the other foot, Gleason is the one who got pounded after he KO'd Kulemin a couple of weeks ago. Gleason called Kulemin to apologize, but I guess that wasn't good enough. Give him credit for standing in there and doing his best against a tough guy like Rosehill. I texted Canes GM Jim Rutherford this morning and asked about it, but he said he wasn't angry. "No, that is the way it works," Rutherford said.
Burnside: Pierre, you are right on about Ference telling it like it is. It is the natural order in the NHL to defend your own and whine and complain when something bad happens to your guys. Think about the whining the Sharks did when Joe Thornton was suspended for two games for clipping David Perron as Thornton was coming out of the penalty box. Perron hasn't played since, and the Blues are going to miss the playoffs. So it's refreshing to hear Ference be honest about what was a dangerous play.
As for the suspension, that's the problem with the league handling its discipline like Forrest Gump's box of chocolates, a surprise in every bite. As for Gleason and the Canes, two tough losses after all the positive buzz emanating from Raleigh during All-Star weekend. Even though the Thrashers can't win, they still hold onto eighth place in the Eastern Conference despite giving up a late goal and losing 4-2 to red-hot Calgary. You mentioned this last night, as well, but look at the Sabres! They have five games in hand on Atlanta (how does that happen, by the way?) and trail them by only six points. Wow.
LeBrun: Scotty, regarding the NHL's hockey ops and handling of discipline, it doesn't seem to matter what they do, people will criticize regardless. It's the toughest job in the game, and while I often disagree with their rulings, that doesn't mean I don't realize how hard a task they have. I know for a fact GMs and sometimes owners call them and scream murder when they're unhappy when one of their players gets suspended. I would not want that job.
Meanwhile, the Hurricanes and Thrashers seem to be in a turtle race right now for the No. 8 slot, and that's opening the door for the Sabres. Buffalo is 7-3-0 in its past 10 games, and you can just feel the Sabres coming. Should be fun to watch. Unlike Paille's hit last night.