NHL: Do Fights Fire Teams Up?

Two weeks ago, on the eve of the start of the Stanley Cup playoffs, I warned our readers that the end of the regular season normally meant an end to the sort of hockey fisticuffs that we normally see during the regular season, and, truth be told, enjoy so much. Well, two weeks later, I'm happy to report that for at least this postseason, I've been blessedly wrong. ↵Though we're just about done with the first round, we've already seen 10 fights this postseason, that's compared to just seven bouts over the course of the entire tournament just one year ago. ↵When it comes to entertainment, it would be hard to beat Patrice Bergeron's beat down of Josh Gorges in the Boston-Montreal series. Then there was the all-Ivy League tussle between George Parros and Doug Murray in the Anaheim-San Jose series. But in terms of the most important fight, it's hard to top the battle between Max Talbot and Dan Carcillo in Saturday's Penguins-Flyers game: ↵
↵ ↵⇥ ↵⇥ ↵⇥ ↵⇥ ↵⇥ ↵⇥ ↵ ↵
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↵During that clip, NBC's Ed Olcyzk made it pretty clear that he thought Carcillo made a critical mistake in accepting Talbot's challenge, saying that there was no reason to give the Penguins, down 3-0 at the time, any reason to be roused from their slumber. And after the game, Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury told NBC's Darren Pang that Talbot's run at Carcillo got his team's energy flowing and led directly to them scoring five straight unanswered goals on their way to a 5-3 series clinching win. ↵
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↵But do fights like this really make a difference? Writing in today's Toronto Star, Chris Zelkovich took exception to that conceit, pointing out that Calgary's Adam Pardy undertook a similar "suicide mission" against Chicago's Ben Eager just a few hours later with his team down to Chicago 5-1, yet it didn't make a bit of difference. ↵Zelkovich may well be right, but the perception remains -- as demonstrated by Olcyzk's reaction on NBC -- that there are some fights that are better left alone. One thing is for sure: Talbot earned himself some more fans for life in Pittsburgh for standing up to Carcillo, just another reason why players like him continue to endear themselves to the game's hardcore fans.↵

This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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