Alex Burrows is one of the NHL’s elite chirpers, and it’s not just that he has a lot to say in his nigh unintelligible accent — he does his research. His chirping of David Backes involved mentioning Backes’s girlfriend by name. He needled Aaron Downey by mocking the Detroit enforcer’s childhood potato farm. He made reference to Mike Richards’ reputation as a pretty fun dude to party with, complete with a little pile of ice shards on his stick.
When Burrows gets going, he’s going for the throat.
Or in the case of Phil Kessel, the ankles. When the two forwards got into it at the benches during Saturday’s contest, Burrows chirped Kessel for his infamous run-in with John Scott, which involved Kessel backing away from the monstrous Scott while slashing Scott in the ankle once in retreat and then again once Scott was occupied elsewhere.
Here’s a great Vine of the moment, courtesy Ryan Gregory:
And here’s a GIF from @Choderama:
That’s just quality chirping. It had its desired effect, too. Kessel was rattled.
Kessel is the Leafs’ primary weapon, and a large part of the reason that the club is winning despite playing a lot of games like they played Saturday night. That in mind, any time you can take him off the ice, you’ve done your job, and Burrows succeeded in doing that. The next time the two forwards shared the ice, Burrows bumped Kessel, probably said something else, and the two dropped the gloves.
They didn’t fight, really. They just fell to the ice in the touching scene you see at the top of this post. But the officials called it a fight, and the two went to the box for five minutes apiece.
It’s important to note when this happened. Kessel and Burrows spilled onto the ice with the Canucks leading 1-0, but just after the Leafs’ sixth consecutive shot on goal. It was their largest push of the game, their best stretch by far (it featured almost one-third of their total shots), but it effectively ended the moment Burrows was able to goad Kessel into a five-minute major. The Canucks dominated the remainder of the game and the Leafs were never able to manage another push.
Shortly after, Tom Sestito and Colton Orr chucked as well, but if you want to point to a fight that actually made a difference in this game, it’s this one.