The enforcers community in the NHL is generally one built upon respect for other enforcers since they know how hard one another’s job is in the league. After all, playing the role of public defender of your teammates on the ice and designated brawler with other enforcers is a tough job despite not logging a lot of minutes on the ice. Of course, when a player goes astray and breaks the rules of “the code” especially with players who aren’t enforcers, that tends to stir things up in the fighting community.
Case in point, Chris Neil of the Ottawa Senators picking a fight with Dennis Seidenberg of the Bruins on Saturday night in the final five minutes of the Sens 4-0 loss to the Bruins. You can see video of the scrap here on YouTube. Bruins enforcer-in-waiting Brian McGrattan, who was just called up from a conditioning assignment, was asked about his former teammate Neil picking a fight with noted non-fighter Seidenberg and much like how he plays on the ice, McGrattan pulled no punches with his thoughts on Neil as Fluto Shinzawa of the Boston Globe notes.
“I heard about it,” McGrattan said of Neil’s actions. “That’s typical Chris Neil. I had to protect that guy for three years when I was there. He’d do that and I’d have to fight all his battles for him the next time we’d play a team after he’d do something stupid like that. It doesn’t surprise me.”
Neil and Seidenberg were tagged with fighting majors. Neil was given an additional two minutes for roughing.
“That’s the way he does it,” McGrattan said. “He’ll do something where he knows he’ll get kicked out of the game and won’t have to come back and fight anybody. I’ve been around him long enough to know he does that. Then I’m the one who usually has to fight his battles the next time. It’s typical.”
Neil’s reputation amongst virtually anyone in the league is about as sparkling as this scouting report from McGrattan seems to indicate. All McGrattan was missing from this was calling Neil a few colorful names and insulting his family. Perhaps that chatter gets saved for on the ice.
The one advantage that Neil has over McGrattan is that Neil has somehow carved himself a decent NHL career out of being a fighter and agitator. Meanwhile, McGrattan’s lone skill is throwing punches with other players and has the distinction of holding the AHL single-season record for penalty minutes. If you were going to give me the choice of which guy I’d lay my fake money on to take a fight, I’d put it on McGrattan over Neil. There’s not many fights McGrattan has said “no” to in his career while Neil has developed the knack for picking on guys that are either smaller than him or guys that don’t fight at all in which to brawl with.
This is just a lot of mindless banter for now, but should McGrattan get to suit up for a game against Ottawa, Chris Neil had better be ready for action. McGrattan seems to have a bit of a long memory for these things.
Forsberg’s hat trick, own-goal highlights Predators’ wild OT loss to Flames
While it was an up-and-down night for both the Flames and Predators, Pekka Rinne‘s evening was pretty much uniformly dismal.
Rinne was pulled early in the second period after giving up four goals on 13 shots, making way for Juuse Saros (who actually ended up gtting tagged with the loss).
The Flames can breathe a sigh of relief after winning the game despite coughing up a big lead, improving to 64 points and strengthening their grip on the second wild card spot. That “charity point” comes in handy for Nashville, leaving the Predators with 59 points and a game in hand on the Flames.
Hockey fans tend to get their radars up about over-hyping things, particularly promising rookies.
Is it hasty, then, to wonder if there’s something to a rivalry between Auston Matthews (and the Maple Leafs) vs. Patrik Laine (plus the Jets)? If nothing else, the two have come up big in two very exciting games.
Back in October, Laine generated a hat trick as the Jets beat the Maple Leafs 5-4 in overtime. This time around, it was another 5-4 overtime decision … only Matthews and the Maple Leafs took this round.
This isn’t to take anything away from Laine’s performance, mind you. He scored two goals on Tuesday, becoming the rare modern rookie to muster 30 goals. He reminded hockey fans that he only needs the smallest window to make you pay with his deadly, world-class shot.
But Matthews wouldn’t be denied, either, and fittingly did so in a quieter fashion. (Virtually everyone seems a little quieter when Laine’s around, it seems.)
The Maple Leafs’ outstanding rookie managed three assists in this game, giving him 52 points in 59 games. He also has six points in a three-game run and eight in his past five.
Laine? He now has 54 points in 55 games, extending is own point streak to five games (seven goals, three assists).
In other words, it’s really close … just like the games when these two budding stars (and their young, promising teammates) meet.
You might even be tempted to believe the hype.
Serious performance: Blackhawks gain on Wild thanks to Toews’ five points
If the Chicago Blackhawks are going to make up some serious ground and overtake the Minnesota Wild for the Central Division title, they’ll need wins like these.
It’s only fitting that “Captain Serious” Jonathan Toews did the heavy lifting, generating a hat trick and two assists as the Blackhawks beat the Wild 5-3 on Tuesday.
Yes, Toews was involved in every goal. And yes, the Blackhawks won this one in regulation after beating the Wild in overtime last time around. It’s a nice swing for Chicago:
Central Division title chase
1. Wild – 84 points in 59 games (39 wins, 36 ROW)
2. Blackhawks – 79 points in 60 games (37 wins, 35 ROW)
Yeah, that’s still a substantial edge for Minnesota … but this is a significant swing.
Even beyond the name recognition that comes with Toews & Co., the Blackhawks’ push shouldn’t be surprising. They’re red-hot in February so far, going 7-1-0 despite playing seven of eight on the road (strangely losing that lone home contest).
The Wild have played reasonably well in their own right, yet this loss sends them into a bye week with some frustration … and maybe some questions about whether they can hold the Blackhawks off.
Price didn’t just play for Habs; he made the difference vs. Rangers
It’s one thing for Carey Price to shake off that Paul Byron shot in warm-ups. And, honestly, that bump from Shea Weber during the game. But to play like, well, Carey Price? That would be something else.
Well, you probably saw this one coming … but Price had some absolutely great moments against the New York Rangers in an eventual 3-2 shootout win.
He was the main difference-maker, although it must be said that there’s some comic relief in Byron scoring the shootout-winner.
Price vs. Rick Nash felt like a subplot of the overall story.
On one occasion, Price made a resounding stop on a Nash breakaway:
It was quite the night for the aging power forward, however, as he nailed his other opportunity.
Some might be a little sad that Nash vs. Price didn’t go against each other in the shootout, but hey, maybe the two teams could save that for next time?
The Canadiens needed this win more than the Rangers. The Ottawa Senators actually briefly went ahead for first place in the Atlantic Division, but now Montreal has 72 points to Ottawa’s 70 … while the Sens hold two games in hand.
This tweet might only live for a few minutes, but the Ottawa Senators are in first place in the Atlantic Division.