Let me first say that the last thing I want this to turn into is another one of those drawn out "Should fighting be banned" sort of posts. This isn't an example of that. At all.
Rather than focus on just the subject of fighting let's dive a bit deeper into the realm of retaliation and leadership, but more specifically Sidney Crosby's fight with Florida's Keith Ballard. (If you need video Dunman has you covered.)
Evgeni Malkin was leveled - no arguing that. Much to Ballard's credit it was an entirely clean hit that may have been slightly dramatized by Malkin's attempt to evade the run into the boards. The hit looked severe but only with regards to the flashiness of it all. Malkin didn't stay down long, quickly bounced up and continued the rush into Florida's zone.
Cleans hits are part of the game. In fact clean hits are the preferred type of hit when presented with the alternate dirty, worth-of-suspension hits that can sometimes victimize players on the ice. This was not one of those kinds.
So why did Crosby pick a fight in defense of Malkin?
Let's first disect it by the immediate on-ice conditions.
The score's tied 1-1 with roughly two minutes to go in the first period. Pitt's top scoring line of Bill Guerin, Crosby and Malkin hit's the ice. Play enters the Florida zone, Malkin gets rocked into the boards and Crosby takes it upon himself to send a message to Ballard.
Eric Godard, Paul Bissonnette (WB/S) and to an extent Matt Cooke are the guys paid to fill the enforcer role. Unfortunately Godard was a healthy scratch in yesterday's game, Cooke was not on the ice and Bissonnette is still down on the farm.
So is it up to the captain to take it upon himself and deliver the beatdown?
As far as I'm concerned, no.
In a tie game why should any team be without one of its top scorers for five minutes? Coincidentally the outcome issued Crosby an additional two-minute game misconduct. Talk about making matters worse.
This fight was pointless right from the second Malkin hti the boards. A clean hit shouldn't require retaliation, let alone by a guy not known for fighting. Last week when Ballard laid out Scottie Hartnell of the Flyers I actually commented with a similar statement. Admittedly that hit was a bit lower and potentially more dangerous than this one but still clean. So why can't players just accept the hit and skate off?
The point is Sid earns the 'C' on his jersey for his playmaking abilities and scoring, not for going toe to toe with defensemen. I understand what he's doing in terms of standing up for teammates but I don't get why he feels he should be the one to do it.
Maybe he just felt compelled to take a page from Guerin's book on leadership or perhaps he just really enjoys fighting the Panthers. Either way you look at it, at least people can't get on his case for "jumping" another player.
I think the Pens would have benefited more if Sid stayed on the ice. Greg from Puck Daddy thinks Sid exemplified his leadership role by dropping the mitts after a hit that may have changed momentum.
Most importantly what do you think?