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Was Carolina’s Tim Gleason wrong to drop the gloves with Toronto’s Nikolai Kulemin?

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When fights break out in the NHL usually there’s a protocol for how things go down. Guys will shove each other, words will be exchanged and usually an agreement on dropping the gloves goes down. During last night’s game between Carolina and Toronto the unspoken language of fighting (read: smashing gloves into each others faces) didn’t seem to send the same message between Carolina’s experienced fighting machine Tim Gleason and Toronto’s newbie to pugilism Nikolai Kulemin.

Kulemin and Gleason got entangled near the bench at the end of the first period and Kulemin started shoving Gleason including catching him with a couple of gloved shots to the face. In Tim Gleason’s world, punching a guy in the face, glove or no glove, means it’s “go” time. Gleason grabbed Kulemin and paired off to fight with his gloves seemingly peeling off. One uppercut on the nose later, Kulemin was down on the ice and Gleason had won yet another fight. (See video here)

After the game, opinions differed on how things went down. AM 640’s Jonas Siegel got the lowdown from the Toronto room that saw a difference of opinion all around. Leafs forward Clarke MacArthur was none too pleased with Gleason.

“It was a cheap shot,” said an infuriated Clarke MacArthur, who registered his first official NHL fight with Chad Larose earlier in the period.

“I don’t know if he’s smart enough—probably not—but he should know that Kulemin’s not a fighter. I think Kulie just went in there to stick up for teammates and Gleason obviously isn’t that smart. Kulie didn’t drop his gloves and he gets suckered like that.

“I was disgusted with that. There’s certain matchups on the ice. I don’t care what he says. You know when you’re in the right matchup. Kulemin’s never been a guy to fight and Gleason does it a lot. He knows better than that.”

It’s fair to saw that Gleason probably didn’t get a good look at the number or name of the guy that was busy punching his own face and therefore had no idea that Kulemin was a total novice when it comes to fighting. Leafs coach Ron Wilson took a decidedly different look at things though.

“They were in a fight and he got it right in the face,” said Wilson, who coached Gleason with Team USA at the Vancouver Olympics last February. “The appropriate action happened. It wasn’t a sucker-punch or anything like that. Kulie was throwing punches with his gloves on and then Gleason dropped his gloves and beat him to the punch.”

As you may have seen in the video the interesting part of the whole mess was that Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf stood by the scene and did nothing to respond to Gleason. Very odd. It’s strange to see players and coach differ so wildly in their take on things as you’ll almost always see the coach get very indignant and at least verbally stick up for his player even if they’re in the wrong. In this case, Wilson’s stand is either oddly refreshing or completely infuriating depending on your thoughts on him as a Leafs fan.

Was Gleason wrong in this situation? We’re inclined to think he isn’t. After all, he’s a guy with a fighting past and when you enter his world and you start acting the way Kulemin did giving him the physical means of saying “let’s go” that’s the language he speaks. Lost in translation here is that Kulemin got way in over his head and paid for it in doing so. If Kulemin isn’t intent on fighting a guy next time, mixing it up with someone more his speed would be wiser.

Five team stats you may find interesting

St. Louis Blues goalie Jake Allen is slow to get up after giving up a goal to Washington Capitals' T.J. Oshie during the second period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
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27.5 — Shots per game for the St. Louis Blues. Only one team, New Jersey (27.3), is averaging fewer. So while it’s true that goaltending has been their major issue, it’s also true that in the eight games since the Winter Classic, the Blues have averaged just 22.9 shots, and that’s not very many at all. Perhaps it’s related to the goaltending — i.e. they could be playing more conservatively in order to protect Jake Allen and Carter Hutton. But coach Ken Hitchcock said recently that Vladimir Tarasenko “is getting checked to death, and other people are responsible for creating the space for him. He’s trying to play against four guys right now. We need more participants in order to help him.” So it’s not all on the goalies. In his last six games, Tarasenko has no goals and just nine shots total.

58 — Goals scored by the Washington Capitals since Christmas. That’s an average of 4.5 per game. Only the Rangers (4.4) and Penguins (4.0) are averaging four goals or more in that time frame. Since Christmas, the Caps have been led in scoring by Alex Ovechkin (17 points); however, the resurgence of Evgeny Kuznetsov (15 points) has also been key. Kuznetsov only had 17 points in his first 32 games. He’s up to 32 in 45 now.

73.8% — The Buffalo Sabres’ penalty killing, which has been terrible. In fact, the Sabres are on pace to have the NHL’s worst PK of the salary-cap era:

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3 — Power-play goals for the Blue Jackets in their last eight games. In a related story, the Jackets are 3-5-0 in those eight games. “There’s gonna be times where it just doesn’t feel like it’s going in,” said captain Nick Foligno after last night’s 2-0 loss in Ottawa. Columbus went 0-for-3 with the man advantage against the Sens, who got a 42-save shutout from Mike Condon. The Jackets still have the NHL’s best power play (24.6%), but the Maple Leafs (24.1%) are catching up. The Leafs have scored 12 PP goals in their last 10 games.

14 — Games the Colorado Avalanche have lost by three goals or more, the most in the league. Just how bad are the Avs? Well, they’re 30th in goals for and 30th in goals against. And if they keep up their pace, they’ll be the worst team of the salary-cap era:

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Leafs claim Griffith off waivers… again

SUNRISE, FL - DECEMBER 29:  Seth Griffith #24 of the Florida Panthers takes a shot on Al Montoya #35 of the Montreal Canadiens during a game  at BB&T Center on December 29, 2016 in Sunrise, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
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Seth “suitcase” Griffith is off to join another team — a team he’s joined once already this season.

On Friday, the Leafs announced they’ve claimed Griffith off waivers, just two months after exposing him on the wire and losing him to Florida.

Toronto had originally acquired Griffith off — yup, you guessed it, waivers! — when the B’s cut him loose just prior to the start of the regular season.

The 23-year-old, who played under Leafs assistant GM Mark Hunter in OHL London, appeared in three games for Toronto this season, going pointless. Griffith had a bigger role in Florida — notching five assists in 21 games — but suffered a concussion earlier this month and, after recovering, was a healthy scratch for three straight games.

Per multiple sources, the Leafs are sending Griffith straight to their AHL affiliate, the Marlies.

 

 

After Allen’s horrific night, Blues call up a goalie

Jake Allen
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A new twist in the St. Louis goaltending drama on Friday — after a disastrous home loss against Washington, the Blues have recalled Pheonix Copley from AHL Chicago.

Copley, 25, was one of the players acquired in the T.J. Oshie-to-Washington trade. He’s played well this season, sitting 10th in the AHL in wins (11) and ninth in both GAA (2.32) and save percentage (.920).

To date, Copley has played in one NHL contest, coming on in relief of Jake Allen in a loss to Nashville last February.

Speaking of Allen…

We’ve written plenty about his struggles this year (see here, here, here and here), and things hit rock bottom on Thursday. Allen was hooked by Ken Hitchcock after allowing two goals on three shots to start the game, but was sent back in just a few minute later — a classic Hitchcockian move, designed to give his goalie an in-game reset.

But it didn’t work.

Hitch was forced to hook Allen for good in the second period, after the Caps scored for the fourth time — on just 10 shots.

Afterward, Hitchcock admitted his No. 1 netminder is a mess.

“There’s a lot going on right now. … He’s kind of locked up mentally and he’s going to have to fight through this,” Hitchock said, per Lou Korac of NHL.com. “What we see at practice, we like. That’s why we put him in quite frankly.”

To their credit, the Blues have tried to shake things up, like parking Allen and going with backup Carter Hutton.

Hutton has fared well in small stretches but, this week, he was given a chance to start three games in a row and bombed in the third, allowing five goals in just 23 shots in a loss to Ottawa.

So, enter Copley. It’s asking a lot of him to try and turn things around but, at this point, the Blues are desperate and have to try something.

Anything, really.

B’s get Beleskey back from 23-game absence

BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 20:  Matt Beleskey #39 of the Boston Bruins takes a shot against New Jersey Devils  during the third period at TD Garden on October 20, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Bruins defeat the Devils 2-1.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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The Bruins have lost three of their last four, and are looking for a spark heading into tonight’s game against Chicago.

They’re hoping Matt Beleskey can provide it.

Beleskey, who’s been out since Dec. 3 with a knee injury, will play for the first time in 23 games this evening as the B’s host the ‘Hawks at TD Garden.

Beleskey suffered his injury in a game against Buffalo, in which he played less than six minutes before exiting for good. He’s been sidelined ever since, and will now draw back in what appears to be an energy role, alongside Dominic Moore and Austin Czarnik.

The 28-year-old is no doubt ready to get his year on track. Beleskey had struggled prior to getting hurt — he had just two goals and five points through 24 games, and was made a healthy scratch back in early November.