Saturday, April 18, 2015

A Blow-by-Blow Recap of Friday Night's Fights and What it Could Mean for Calgary

The Vancouver Canucks and Calgary Flames playoff series is officially on after a heated game Friday night in which there were several incidents as the Canucks won 4-1 to even the series 1-1.

Here is a blow-by-blow recap of the four primary incidents from Friday night as tempers boiled over and the hostilities returned to a rivalry that long ago left the so-called 'Battle of Alberta' in the dust.

1. Lack's Flailing Blocker

Time: 7:27 of the second period
Score: Canucks led 2-0

Calgary's fourth line was having a good shift in the offensize zone. Getting the puck in the corner, Brandon Bollig sends it back to Corey Potter at the blue-line. Potter makes a D-to-D pass to David Schlemko, who walks the blue-line and sends a wrister through a crowd that hits Lack. With the puck lying at Lack's feet, Bollig swipes at it in an attempt to chip it into the open side but can't get his stick on it and then comes the skirmish.

As Bollig continues to pursue the puck as it lies in the crease, he gets shoved from behind and ends up landing right on top of Lack. In Bollig's defence, he definitely got pushed from behind. However, in Vancouver's defence, it was by teammate Josh Jooris, who was also right there in the crease doggedly digging at the puck.

While it's true Bollig does not appear to make much of an attempt to get off Lack, the goalie also had his legs wrapped around Bollig's legs so I'm not sure he could have got off him anyway. Luca Sbisa, while jostling with Markus Granlund, tries but fails to pull Bollig off of Lack. Then Jannik Hansen doffs his gloves, climbs inside the net and from the opposite side, tries to yank Bollig off Lack.

With a linesman in the net as well, trying to intervene, Lack and Bollig flip over and now Lack is on top of Bollig. Lack eventually gets to his feet and while still clinging to Bollig and with his mask off but his blocker and trapper still on, Lack tries to throw a couple of punches at Bollig with his blocker but only lands a couple of harmless, glancing shots off the back of Bollig's pants.

While all this was happening, Kevin Bieksa gives a solid shove behind the net on Jooris, who then goes around to the other post where he is pursued by Ronalds Kenins and the two of them aggressively get their gloves in each other's face and jostle by the goal post.

Next, the headlock conga line begins. David Schlemko already has Bo Horvat in a headlock, Bieksa grabs Granlund in a headlock and that's followed by Corey Potter briefly getting Bieksa in a headlock.

As a fired up Lack skates away to the cheers of the home crowd, Bollig gets to his feet with Sbisa still grabbing him on one side and Hansen on the other.

Penalties - Bollig Cal (roughing), Sbisa Van (roughing).

2. Ferland's Give-One-and-Get-One-Free

Time: 9:53 of the third period
Score: Canucks led 3-0

As Chris Tanev pursues a loose puck along the end boards in the Vancouver end, he's stapled heavily into the boards by Micheal Ferland, who did initially take five or six strides -- the definition of a charging penalty in the eyes of the referee (and the rule book) -- before gliding from the goal line and finishing the heavy check that was so impactful it rattled the glass out of place.

With a delayed penalty being called on Ferland and Tanev with the puck, the Canucks defenceman curls out front of his net but with Ferland pursuing him retreats back behind it again. Meanwhile, Lack exits his crease by a few feet but in doing so skates into the path of Ferland, who was circling in front with his eyes affixed on Tanev. That leads to a bump in which Lack goes down and the crowd goes wild.

Did Ferland attampt to get out of Lack's way? Nope. But Lack was an equal contributor also as he looked like a basketball player purposely trying to draw a charging foul, by getting in Ferland's path, planting his feet and then going down on contact.

On his way to the penalty box, Ferland is seen exchanging words with Brad Richardson, who skates by him.

Penalties - Ferland Cal (charging).

3. Boring Monahan Turns Into Angry Monahan

Time: 15:46 of the third period
Score: Canucks led 3-0

After the puck is turned over deep in the Canucks end, Henrik Sedin leads a rush up ice that would become a three-on-two. Meanwhile, behind the play, Dan Hamhuis gets in the path of Johnny Gaudreau as he tries to pursue Sedin. Gaudreau goes down pretty easily, perhaps attempting (and doing so successfully) to draw an interference penalty. With Gaudreau hanging onto the blade of Hamhuis' stick, and Hamhuis trying to yank it out, Sean Monahan goes after Hamhuis, eventually getting him in a headlock. Those two start wrestling. While that's going on, Jiri Hudler grabs Yannick Weber and tries to keep him from joining the fray.

Eventually, after the play is blown down, everyone from up ice -- Dennis Wideman and Kris Russell, the Sedins and Alex Burrows -- end up joining the skirmish too.

As cameras pan the bench, Mikael Backlund and Ferland are seen jawing with Bieksa and Derek Dorsett.

Penalties - Hamhuis Van (interference).

4. Ragin' Matt Stajan

Time: 18:43 of the third period
Score: Canucks led 3-1

It starts off innocently enough. Ferland's soft backhander is gloved easily and held by Lack. After the whistle goes, Bollig skates towards the top of the crease and gives Hamhuis a shove, who pushes Bollig back. Then all the players on the ice come together and it was on.

As Matt Stajan -- with two career NHL fights in his previous 778 games -- tries to pry Shawn Matthias from the melee, Dorsett comes in and shoves his glove in Stajan's face. At the same time, Richardson grabs Stajan from behind and puts him in a tight headlock. Having had enough as the two drift towards the end boards, Stajan throws down his gloves first and he and Richardson square off in a spirited tussle with both combatants throwing a flurry of punches. As they go to the ice, Stajan temporarily has Richardson's jersey over his head. Later, while lying on the ice with Richardson on top, Richardson knocks Stajan in the face with his forearm.

Meanwhile in the corner, Dorsett and Deryk Engelland drop the mitts and start chucking with Engelland deemed the instigator by the officials (although late Saturday afternoon, the instigator was rescinded). Dorsett eventually ends up on the ice while Engelland continues to throw punches. With the referee standing three feet away from those two, Hamhuis leaves the other skirmish and skates across and jumps in as the third man. Now, Engelland ends up ends up wrestling with the two of them, eventually all three go to the ice with the two Canucks on top.

Dorsett gets off and skates away but only briefly. As Engelland and Hamhuis separate, Dorsett circles back and goes after Engelland again, initiating the second fight between them with an overhand right. Now, a weary Engelland and Dorsett are exchanging punches again.

While all of that was going, there was a third skirmish that had begun when Ferland pursued Hamhuis into the scrum after the whistle and the two of them began shoving behind the net. First to join in was Matthias, followed immediately by Bollig. Sbisa and Potter were the last two into that melee and they remained joined together but only jawed at each other. No punches were thrown.

Meanwhile, as Ferland was escorted off the ice, he hears it from the Vancouver bench with Horvat and Ryan Miller especially vocal.

Penalties - Stajan Cal (fighting, game misconduct), Engelland Cal (instigator, fighting, fighting, game misconduct, game misconduct, game misconduct), Ferland Cal (misconduct), Bollig Cal (misconduct), Richardson Van (fighting, game misconduct), Hamhuis (game misconduct), Matthias Van (misconduct).

A Few Thoughts

We'll presumably learn on Saturday if there will be any fines or suspensions. On the surface it would seem like Dorsett got off fairly light considering the second fight with Engelland was initiated by him. But, my understanding is Engelland's game misconducts came for three different reasons (being the instigator in the initial fight -- but this was later reversed, reportedly continuing on fighting after being told to stop, having a second altercation).

Either way, you get the sense that this is going to be a war destined to go six or seven games and there will be plenty of fireworks still to come.

What also remains to be seen is will Friday's events serve as a rallying point for Calgary. They played a very poor game in game two and need to get themselves back in the series and at least emotionally, that has certainly happened.

Calgary is sorely missing Lance Bouma as this type of war would be right up his alley but he's not an option right now. The Flames need to get the likes of bigger players like David Jones and Monahan involved more physically -- like Ferland has been -- and while that has not been an element of Monahan's game thus far in his career, his showing of some anger Friday when jumping in to Gaudreau's defence could be a really good sign as he certainly has the size to back it up. It's important in order for the Flames to have a shot at winning this series that Gaudreau and Hudler aren't pushed around and overall, Calgary needs to be a more difficult and frustrating team to play against.

Man, if you thought fans in Calgary were already excited about seeing their first playoff game in six years, imagine the mood now as the tempers of both of these two teams rise. The atmosphere on Sunday night at the Scotiabank Saddledome is going to be off the charts.

Last year, when John Tortorella and the Canucks met the Flames at Rogers Arena on January 18 and engaged in that famous line brawl off the opening face-off, that was the beginning of a whole new Flames team. Calgary played much improved from that point forward and as a bit of foreshadowing, finished last season 19-14-1 and as one of the Western Conference's top eight teams.

While that incident was always shrugged off by coach Bob Hartley as well as the players as more of a coincidence than a correlation, connecting the dots would suggest otherwise.

We'll learn in the next week if last night's incident will have a similar rallying effect.

By the way, have you liked Flames From 80 Feet on Facebook yet? Go there and do so now. It's just another way to be alerted to new Calgary Flames articles that I've written.


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