Thursday, November 23, 2006

I Fought the Law (and Everyone Else...)

In the aftermath of yesterday's fisticuff-tinged game against Atlanta, more information has started trickling out about the incidents during and after the game. Animosity has obviously been building up between these two teams, particularly after the Caps knocked Atlanta out of the playoffs last year. This season Atlanta has beaten Washington all 4 times they have met, and each game has been more physical than the last.

So let's break it down:
- The incidents of the last 2-3 minutes of the game yesterday were kicked off after Thrasher Andy Sutton, who had up until that point been fairly quiet, laid a massive hit on rookie defenseman Mike Green. Ben Clymer came flying at Sutton in response and the two exchanged blows, becoming the first players to be sent to the locker room for the night.

  • Good for Clymer for stepping up - it was a cheap shot on Green, the second such hit from Sutton in the last two games between Atlanta and Washington. Sutton is a big guy and a very physical player and that's great, but to wait until the game is practically over then lineup a rookie without the puck is just ridiculous.
- The very next shift Hanlon put Brashear, Bradley and Erskine out on the ice, and I think we all knew what was going to happen. The puck had barely dropped before all three were going at it, with Brashear completely destroying his sparring buddy Vishnevski. Apparently Hedberg was starting to get involved, which of course brought Olie out of his crease to, shall we say, have a few words with him. Nothing evolved but Olie definitely got his point across. According to the Washington Post, some Thrashers were grabbing Clarkie's face mask and shaking it, as well...
  • It's very un-Hanlon like to do something like this - he's not one to intentionally create a fighting atmosphere, so he must have been pretty upset. I'm proud of him for really taking it to Atlanta - they don't really dress any tough guys but they play a very chippy style, with lots of borderline hits and have been a thorn in the Caps' side since last season. Regarding the facemask thing, I saw a bit of it and really was amazed - first that Clarkie was even getting involved, which speaks volumes of his commitment to the team, and second that it was taking place at all. That's just so obnoxious and uncalled for.
- Next shift, next fight - Sutherby came out for his first shift of the 3rd period and promptly dropped the gloves after taking the faceoff. Mellanby then for some reason went after Heward and the two exchanged blows before also being escorted from the ice.
  • I'm not sure what Sutherby did to get in Hanlon's doghouse - he played less than 10 minutes last night, which is odd for him - but he certainly made up for it by taking one for the team. The Mellanby-Heward thing was just bizarre...I feel like Mellanby was looking for a fight at that point and Heward just happened to be there, because Jamie is really not a fighter. Give him some credit, though - he held his own against a pretty good fighter.

- As the penalty minutes were being sorted out you could see Hanlon jawing in the direction of the Thrashers bench, and Hartley was just glaring daggers right back. It has since come to light that Hanlon flapped his arms like a chicken at Hartley and the two later had a screaming match in the halls between the locker rooms. In their postgame conferences, each coach continued to be vocal - Hanlon basically seemed to say that Atlanta had it coming and the guys were going to do what they were going to do. Hartley on the other hand seemed to think that there is no place for fighting anymore and the Thrashers are just trying to win hockey games. Whatever.

  • There's nothing really to say about this except that Hartley really bugs me and if anyone has a clip of Hanlon acting like a chicken, please post it on YouTube immediately.

- Aftermath: the long arm of the law, aka the disciplinary side of the NHL, has handed down one game suspensions to Brian Sutherby and Scott Mellanby for instigating fights, while Donald Brashear earned a 3-game suspension for his efforts and will be back November 30 against Dallas. On top of that, Hanlon received a $30,000 fine and Hartley received a $10,000 fine for their part in the kerfuffles (love that word...)

So what can we take away from all of this? Well, first of all, Hartley seems to think that just because no one on his team can fight, fighting should be outlawed. Second of all, Hanlon's a bit of a badass and I love it. Third and most importantly, this is a team that is getting tighter every game. They've been willing to stand up for one another and all out warfare like this, although not necessarily something I want to see every night, can only be good for the Caps. They'll come away with a few black eyes, a few broken noses, and the knowledge that every single guy in a Caps sweater has their back. And that can sometimes mean more than 2 points.

All I can say is, circle December 15th on your calendars - the Caps will be in Atlanta for a rematch. There may not be any fighting, but you can bet it will be an interesting game.

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