Initially, I was planning to comment on the previous two games in this post. However, I’m now forced to comment solely on the actions of the New York Islanders during last night’s mockery of the game of hockey.
The seeds of the debacle were planted earlier in the season with several collisions between Matt Cooke and Rick DiPietro.
The feud was further intensified last Wednesday, when DiPietro took matters into his own hands to take a cheap shot on Cooke.
Cooke was tracking down a puck in the corner, when DiPietro hit him on the way by. I’ve actually heard and seen Islander fans comment that Cooke made no attempt to get out of the way.
If you were in the same position, would you expect a goaltender to put a blocker and stick into your teeth as you were skating near the no-play zone?
Naturally, everyone on the ice thinks Cooke initiated it because of the nameplate on his sweater and they responded as such.
Then, the goaltenders engage in a fight that was only slightly shorter than DiPietro’s ice time since signing a 15-year deal with the Islanders.
Earlier in the contest, Max Talbot dropped two punishing hits in one shift. The latter left Blake Comeau with a concussion.
Let’s make this abundantly clear shall we?
Both hits were clean. Was Talbot penalized? No. Was he suspended? No. Was he fined? No.
I rest my case.
Why is any of that important?
Flash-forward to last night. The Isles were ready to run at Talbot from the opening puck drop. This kind of thing has come to be expected recently and I’m not entirely sure why.
I understand the concept of sticking up for teammates, but this is hockey. Guys are going to get hit. If it’s clean, why is there a need for the closest teammate to engage the aggressor? What happened to taking a number and getting back at the guy yourself at a later time?
What didn’t help matters any was the Pens coming out flat after an emotional 2-1 overtime win over the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday. Brooks Orpik even admitted to the FSN crew that he was a little tired.
Apparently he wasn’t the only one, as the Isles raced to a 4-0 lead in the first period. That only set the tone for the rest of the evening.
The first questionable incident took place at the end of the first period. Kris Letang had buried John Tavares in the corner twice in mere seconds. Tavares responded by two-handing Letang across the foot.
Letang stayed down on the ice for several minutes, leaving Pens fans gasping and wondering how many more injuries this team could sustain.
He did return for the start of the second period and even scored a power play goal to cut the lead to 4-1.
Adding fuel to the fire, were two fights in the opening frame. Given the recent history, this wasn’t unexpected.
The score in this game is irrelevant. I’m only going to remember the classless acts of three Islander players in particular. So, let’s recap them shall we?
The most notable moment was Matt Martin coming up behind Talbot, dropping his gloves and trying to land a vicious sucker punch. As it was happening, the only thought in my head was how it was an exact re-enactment of Todd Bertuzzi ending Steve Moore’s career. Think I’m kidding? Watch the replay.
Luckily, Talbot saw it coming at the last second and ducked out of the way. Did that stop Martin?
Of course not.
Martin jumped on top of Talbot and starting throwing haymakers before Deryk Engelland stepped in and tried to pry him off.
The rest of the players on the ice paired off and two other fights broke out.
Pascal Dupuis engaged Josh Bailey, Mike Rupp fought Travis Hamonic all while Engelland did his best to protect Talbot. The only one who wasn’t ejected was Talbot, who literally did nothing wrong. Some birthday present this game turned out to be for No. 25.
At this point, I was ready to turn the game off, but you could just tell it was only the beginning of the fracas.
There were no major incidents for the remainder of the second period, but with the score 8-2, the game was destined to get uglier.
Boy did it ever.
Ladies and gentlemen of the jury I present the second classless act of the evening.
Eric Tangradi goes into the corner to battle for a puck in the Islanders’ end. Trevor Gillies decides to introduce his elbow to Tangradi’s face.
Immediately, Tangradi drops his stick and reaches for his face as he’s slowly falling to his knees in obvious pain.
You’d think Gillies would let up and skate away. Well, maybe you wouldn’t. Only 99 percent of NHL players would do that.
As Tangradi is dropping to the ice, Gillies drops his gloves and starts punching the defenseless Penguin forward.
As a result, line brawl number two begins.
Involved were, Talbot, Craig Adams, Gillies and Micheal Haley. All would be ejected except for Talbot again. Did I mention it was Max’s birthday yesterday?
Gillies further cemented his place in the Hall of Fame of classlessness by standing in the doorway to the tunnel and taunting Tangradi relentlessly. (Watch around the 7:00 mark.)
Way to go Trevor, are you proud of yourself?
Haley and Talbot’s fight came to an end and was broken up by the officials. Did any of the four on-ice officials think to escort Haley to the penalty box?
Of course not, which leads me to Exhibit C in this case.
Haley looks down the other end of the ice and sees Johnson standing near the top of the circles. I’m sure he was only standing there in case Mikko Koskinen left his crease to get involved in the action.
However, Haley makes a break for it. Faced with no other option, Johnson sheds his equipment to prepare for battle.
Out of nowhere, Eric Godard comes flying off the bench to try and intercept Haley before he got to Johnson. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Godard skate so fast in my life.
He was about two strides too late and Johnson was forced to fight. Once again, he held his own by landing several punches on Haley.
By rule, Godard could be facing a 10-game suspension for leaving the bench to partake in the altercation.
However, given the circumstances, Godard did the right thing in this situation. When you have a career-AHLer, who clearly has no respect for other players or the game itself for that matter, charging at your goaltender, you need to do something.
Dan Bylsma will also face a suspension and fine for allowing Godard to leave the bench. This is also questionable because how is Bylsma going to stop a man that big from going out only to protect his goaltender? What’s he supposed to do? Tell Godard he won’t be able to watch television for two weeks or take his video games away?
Here’s a word of advice to Haley. If you’re looking to get into the NHL as a full-time player, this isn’t the way to do it. It’s one thing to be a tough guy, but no player should be fighting a goaltender. Period.
For as tough as he seems to think he is, that was as cowardly as it comes. Not to mention, did he not see what Johnson did to DiPietro last week? Here’s another angle of it.
Even more incredible, is that most of this probably could have been avoided.
Anyone with even limited knowledge of the series between these two clubs this season could have seen this coming. Maybe not to this magnitude, but still.
The way you curb these events from happening is to call the game tight right from the beginning. You call penalties for guys breathing on each other to send a message to both benches. You let them know early on that no nonsense will be tolerated.
Give guys two minutes for germ spreading, I don’t care. Let the teams settle it on the scoreboard and avoid the situation of the league suffering a black eye.
It’s obvious that suspensions will be handed down against players on both squads. However, Pittsburgh’s actions were reactionary in nature.
This quickly turned from a hockey game into an embarrassment. At what point is enough going to be enough?
Where was the line in this game? I watched every second of this game and I couldn’t tell you.
There was no distinction given by the officials, so the Islanders’ goons were free to push the limits.
There’s no one person to blame in any of this, but I’m not surprised the score ended up being what it was.
I’ll give them the first four goals. After that, the Penguins were looking over their shoulders to see if someone was coming to take a run at them.
Are the Islanders happy that they injured Tangradi? Would they have been happy if Martin would have been successful in his attack on Talbot?
At any rate, 346 combined penalty minutes is absurd. There were a few more scraps before the game drew to a close. One was between Talbot and Zenon Konopka. It turned out to be a rather eventful birthday for Max to say the least.
There’s no word on the suspensions at this point, but I’m sure we’ll hear by tonight so stay tuned.
Until then, let me borrow a line from Ron Burgundy.
You stay classy, New York Islanders.
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