I hate to make you relive any portion of last night’s heinous, heinous matchup between the Vancouver Canucks and the Minnesota Wild — a game that many hope will go down in the annals of Canuck history as this season’s Voldemort game, never again to be named — but there was a curious incident early in the second period that I think deserves a longer look.
Four minutes into the frame, with the Canucks leading 1-0 (can you believe they led this game for nearly twenty minutes?), Cal Clutterbuck, the chargingest charger in hockey, charged at Aaron Volpatti. However, Volpatti saw him coming and rendered himself unhittable by turning into Goliath from Disney’s Gargoyles or something, and Clutterback went from plasterer to plasteree in one fell swoop.
For whatever reason, Brad Staubitz took offense to this (apparently, you’re not allowed to not get hit by Cal Clutterbuck), rising to his teammate’s defense and dropping the gloves with Volpatti. Staubitz landed a couple blows, Volpatti wrestled him to the ice, the two guys congratulated each other on a fight well done (fighting is weird), and both men went to the box.
Fans of fighting often argue that fights can turn the tide of a game or give energy to a team that’s playing with lethargy, and, while I’ve always found this to be a silly argument, it’s important to note what happened during the first two minutes of Staubitz and Volpatti’s major penalties: the Wild finally broke through on Cory Schneider, scoring twice and turning a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 lead. They never looked back.
It would appear that the fight actually yielded immediate results. While I remain unconvinced, this incident does support the hypothesis that a fight can change a game.
Let’s assume for the moment that it can, an opinion espoused by many. If that’s the case, I’m led to wonder why Aaron Volpatti would have even agreed to the fight. The Canucks were holding on to the most tenuous one-point lead since Al Gore won the popular vote in the 2000 presidential election and Volpatti chose to chance giving the Wild extra life? Why?
Furthermore, why does anybody fight when their team is leading? When you have the momentum and someone challenges you to a contest for the momentum, there are only two things that can happen: you can keep it or you can lose it. Since you could also have kept it by not fighting, it seems like a pretty needless gamble to me.
For the record, the Canucks seem to believe that fights can turn the momentum, but they’re also well aware of what an empty gamble many fights can be, and they’re usually very disciplined in this regard. Think back to the last time you saw a Canuck engage in a fight when the team had a two-goal lead. It’s pretty much a forbidden activity. Last season, after a game between the Canucks and the Phoenix Coyotes, Paul Bissonnette tweeted that he had challenged Tanner Glass to a fight, and Glass had declined. It was the right thing to do: the Canucks were up, and they had everything to lose and nothing to gain at that point.
And if you’re wondering why the Calgary Flames couldn’t muster a fight to sway momentum on Tuesday night (something the commentators even pointed out), keep this in mind as well. It’s probably safe to assume members of the Flames asked the Canucks to fight throughout the evening, but the Canucks smartly declined. With the Vancouver powerplay clicking as it was, Calgary couldn’t risk taking an instigator penalty by forcing the issue. Thus, there was no fight until Tim Jackman jumped Dale Weise with a minute to go, likely out of frustration that nobody would dance with him earlier.
To my mind, all of this stems from some pretty archaic thinking. Last night’s score at the time of the Volpatti-Staubitz tilt hardly reflected the game we were watching up to that point: the Wild had outshot and outchanced the Canucks in the first period; they simply hadn’t been able to beat Cory Schneider, who was standing tall (on the wings of his dreams). It stood to reason that, unless Schneider turned the net around and pinned it against the end boards, the Wild were going to get some pucks past him eventually, regardless of whether Brad Staubitz punched Aaron Volpatti a few times.
That said, many are going to look at this fight as the turning point, and it’s hard to argue when the game turned immediately after it happened.Tags: fighting, Minnesota Wild, staubitz, volpatti