My original plan was to write a clever little post like “12 Reasons the Lightning Won Last Night” or something along those lines before I realized I wasn’t really clever and it would take too much work to come up with 12 reasons the Lightning won. Besides, there is only one thing from Tuesday night’s game that everyone is discussing this morning.
Stephane Veilleux scored a goal!
Ok. So that’s not the thing that everyone around the interwebs is writing about, but it’s still rather noteworthy since it’s only his second of the season and he was a healthy scratch a few games ago.
What everyone is talking about is the Downie vs. Ovechkin vs. Bradley melee that occurred in the third period. If you haven’t seen it, let me break it down for you step by step as viewed from section 323:
1. With the Caps in the Lightning zone Washington Captain Alexander Ovechkin has the puck on his stick. Seconds later his stick is shattered in two by an alleged slashing that wasn’t called. The purported slasher – Steve Downie.
2. After sitting befuddled on the ice at the lack of a call, Mr. Ovechkin skates to his bench for a new stick. Upon receiving said stick he skates to rejoin the play.
3. By this time young Mr. Downie has the puck and is attempting to skate it to center ice.
4. Ovechkin picks up a head of steam and with bad intentions tries to knock Downie onto Channelside Drive. Former Capital captain and current Lightning third-liner Jeff Halpren called it a “dirty hit”. On first glance it looks like Ovechkin led with his knee, but upon further review he hit Downie awkwardly, but cleanly.
5. “Psycho” Steve Downie was enraged by the hit and started throwing down on the much larger Ovechkin. He snuck a solid right hand in before the linesmen and refs intervened and led them each to the penalty box to feel shame for their roughing-ness.
6. During their two minutes of reflection they continued to jaw at each other while some fantastic 4-on-4 action took place on the ice. Upon completion of their penalties the pair left their respective boxes and rejoined the action.
7. Downie immediately put his stick around Ovechkin’s mid-section (for which he would receive a 2 minute hooking penalty) and Ovechkin held the stick while they continued to say unpleasant things about each other.
8. As they drifted into the Lightning zone tied together like 3-legged race participants they finally decided their differences could not be settled verbally. Therefore, resolution could only come via the time honored tradition of fist-a-cuffs.
9. Ovechkin obliged by squaring up, dropping the gloves and removing his helmet. Downie responded likewise and was ready to begin the pummel-fest when he was blindsided by a charging Matt Bradley.
10. Bradley apparently left the bench ( edit - after watching the replays Bradley was already off the bench, it looks like the change was legal) to protect his 6’2 233lb captain from the merciless beating that the smaller Downie was going to inflict upon him (side note – the Lightning website lists Downie as 6’0 tall. If he’s six foot I’m a Pulitzer Prize winning writer).
11. Bradley and Downie grapple for awhile before being separated. In the end Bradley gets a minor for instigating, a major for fighting, a 10-minute misconduct and a game misconduct. Downie gets the hooking minor, fighting major and 10 minute misconduct, Ovechkin gets a minor for being unsportsmanlike (I assume for dropping the gloves and not fighting).
Now having witnessed all of those events let me state for the record I have no problem with what Alex Ovechkin did. He felt he was slashed and he looked for retribution, legally. His hit on Downie was clean and then when Downie offered Ovechkin answered the bell. It wasn’t the Russian’s fault that Bradley thought he couldn’t handle a fight.
Downie was doing what Downie does, stirring up trouble. He has a bad reputation in the NHL for his past misdeeds, but at least he fights his own fights unlike some troublemakers (helloooo Steve Avery). If Ovechkin would have been allowed to fight with him it would have stopped there.
However, Bradley had to be a hero and “save” his teammate. Isn’t the day in age of protecting superstars slowly coming to a close. The top offensive talent in the league, guys like Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby, Joe Thornton, and Vincent are big guys. They’re not 175lb finesse players like Gretzky was. These boys can hold their own on the ice and fight their own battles.
Bradley’s argument that the Lightning would have done the same if Stamkos was being attacked is invalid. Sure someone would step in if Stammer was being harassed, but not if Steven had already dropped the gloves. Nor would they come off the bench to do it.
I have a feeling that Mr. Bradley may be enjoying a little bit of a league imposed vacation the next time these two teams meet courtesy of his actions. The league likes to police these extracurricular activities so a 10 game suspension wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility.
One of the fans in front of me, resplendent in his varsity style Lightning jacket (with leather sleeves!) yelled out at Ovechkin, “Why don’t you fight your own fights, Ovechkin!” Which I found odd since that’s exactly what he was trying to do.
If Downie was the most surprised player on the ice, then I think Ovechkin was the second most surprised. He wanted to fight, he was ready to fight, and then he had it taken away from him. (Kudos to the Lightning PA team for showing the Rocky IV clip where Stallone is “Chopping the big Russian down!!!!”)
Fighting is a part of the game and there is a certain way to do it. Charging off the bench and blindsiding your opponent is not the way to do it. I award Bradley no points for chivalry and request that if he is not suspended when the two teams clash at the end of the month, that he and Mr. Downie square up at a face off and go after each other on equal footing.