Although Jon Mirasty has played in 19 games this season for the KHL's Vityaz Chekhov, he’s remained relatively quiet, not recording a single fighting major until today. Mirasty’s been overshadowed this season by the antics of his Vityaz teammates Jeremy Yablonski and Kip Brennan. However, a showdown Wednesday evening in Russia against what’s arguably the KHL’s second-toughest team: Barys Astana, had potential for major fireworks. Former NHLer Josh Gratton was in the lineup for Barys.
Gratton, like Mirasty, is known for his exciting, action-packed fights. They’ve met up with the gloves off one time before: during the NHL preseason in 2008. In that fight, Mirasty took a decision in an exciting slugfest.
The two did not disappoint today either. In the first period, Mirasty and Gratton faced off for two rounds of classic, toe-to-toe, bare knuckle boxing. Mirasty will most likely get the nod for a decision in both fights, leaving Gratton’s face a mess after their second tilt. The pair skated off the ice to thunderous applause from the Vityaz fans, starving from a lack of willing opponents for their favorite players all season.
Vityaz, unsurprising to anyone, now leads the KHL with 22 fighting majors on the year. Barys is a distant second, having accumulated 7 majors. The two teams don’t match up again until their final game of the season, February 26. Knowing the eagerness of both players, a fourth showdown between the two appears likely, given both will be in the lineup.
There was no penalty called on the play, but with the number of fines and suspensions handed out this season it would be curious if Brendan Shanahan & co. didn't take a look at it. Letang's shield may have contributed to his bloody & broken nose, but it was a pretty solid hit to the head, intentional or not.
The Buffalo Sabres came out strong and hard versus the Boston Bruins tonight, in stark contrast to the game on November 12th when Milan Lucic hit Ryan Miller and the Sabres did nothing, including losing the game 6-2.
After the game a couple of weeks ago Paul Gaustad said he was, "embarrassed that we didn't respond the way we should have." A little over one minute into the game he lined up against Lucic and the two squared off. The Buffalo crowd went wild, even though Lucic got in the better shots, and the physical play continued.
At the 11:33 mark a scrum broke out behind the net. Zdeno Chara paired off with Robyn Regehr somehow. Regehr, looking like the smallest 6'2" man ever, didn't have much of a chance against Chara's reach. A few more penalties were handed out and the crowd was electric again. 33 seconds later the Sabres scored the first goal of the game.
The Sabres held 2-goal leads twice, but something fizzled out and they wound up giving up the lead. Chara, on the power play, had the game-tying goal - with the first assist going to Lucic. The Bruins then took the game in the shootout.
Brian McGrattan took on the Blue Jackets' biggest tough guy in Jared Boll last night. The fight, an open exchange where McGrattan clearly landed some hard shots, makes McGrattan 4 for 4 this season. All dominating wins, and all rated high by the users of hockeyfights.com.
Boll immediately skated off for repairs and returned with a shield on later in the game.
I asked McGrattan if he was surprised Boll stayed on his feet during the exchange. McGrattan said, "he's a tough guy and can take a punch. [I was] a bit surprised, but didn't wanna get caught up in that and take one."
On what he felt like seeing Boll return with a shield: "I didn't know exactly what happened, but it was good to see him come back and that he wasn't badly hurt."
It seemed like they might have exchanged a word or two later in the game. I asked if there was another challenge, possibly even for next game. McGrattan said, "he didn't challenge me again. We lined up and I tapped him on the pads and said 'good job'. I took a shot from Colton Orr a couple of years ago the same way. But I feel that being a good fighter and a tough fighter is how hard you can take a punch and come back and win the fight."
Brian McGrattan and Jay Rosehill had a toe-to-toe, I'm-tired-from-just-watching-that fight last night. The wow-ing was done more by McGrattan, who clearly got the best of the fight, but Rosehill was game and kept going until the linesmen broke it up.
McGrattan's hands were bleeding after the fight. I asked him if there was any real damage and he said, "hands are ok, I hit his bucket a couple times at the end. [It was a] good tilt, I feel better and more comfortable than I ever have. Big props to Rosehill, too." He added he is "gonna chase that #1 spot."
McGrattan's made it clear he isn't looking to just collect a paycheck with the Preds. After his great fight with Cam Janssen in October, I told McGrattan I couldn't believe Janssen kept asking for more. He said "Janssen fights me smart, wish he would open up". After that fight, his first of the season, he was already declaring, "I'll be sliding into that #1 spot very shortly."
After three good wins, McGrattan's a contender for sure, and if nothing else, he's got two of the top four best rated fights of the year. Nashville's a town that appreciates their tough guys and Brian McGrattan is making a hell of an impression.
Game two of the Battle of New York was played last night. Once again at Nassau Coliseum, and once again there was a closely-played game ending in a 4-2 score, only spaced out by two goals thanks an empty netter at the end. However, this time around the Rangers were the winners, and the series is now tied at one game a piece. Unlike game one, which was played hard, but saw no gloves hit the ice, there were two fights last night, both occuring early in the second period.
Towards the end of the first Sean Avery and Mike Mottau picked up unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. Having the intermission to cool off didn't do a thing and the two dropped the gloves immediately coming out of the penalty boxes.
Less than two minutes later Matt Martin threw a big hit on Steve Eminger. Eminger got up and gave Martin a crosscheck. Brandon Prust quickly sktated over and Martin obliged, shedding the mitts. Prust was able to out-maneuver and land the better of the shots.
Arron Asham looked good in another fight, bloodying Cody McLeod. Only half as bad as it looked, as McLeod came into the game with one cut, Asham tacked one on for good measure. Asham's been a top middleweight in the league for years now and is having a solid season in the toughness department.
Lucic was able to free the puck from the Bruins zone, a step or two behind it as it travelled down the ice and he tried to catch up for a breakaway. Miller came far out of his net and when he beat Lucic to the puck, Lucic took Miller out as though he was any other player on the ice.
Lucic received two minutes for charging. Miller continued playing until the third period.
The Sabres gathered around Lucic, but nothing came of it. Paul Gaustad was on the ice at the time and said, "I'm embarrassed that we didn't respond the way we should have." He added, "We didn't push back. There's no reason to be scared. We had to go after it, and we didn't."
Tanner Glass and Cody McCormick had a great bout last night. Toe-to-toe, back and forth, and some clean shots landing on both sides. McCormick skated off bloodied, but many fans are voting him the winner. It has vaulted to the top of this year's best NHL fights list.
The MSG Network showed Glass in the box after the fight with an iced hand and wincing. I asked him if there was any damage and he replied, "I jammed up my thumb a little, it's always tough when the arm comes free."
In the middle of the second period there was a scrum, and out of it came Jarome Iginla and Nick Johnson, grappling and shedding the gloves. Iginla was able to get Johnson's helmet off quickly. There was a lot of wrestling as Iginla got off more punches. They were in tight throughout the fight and Johnson pulled-down/bent over, straightened himself up, catching Iginla with his head. Not hard, but there, and Iginla started yelling at the refs immediately, while the two were still fighting. A few more punches and a takedown from Johnson later, and Iginla skated to the box still yelling at the refs.
There was a total of twelve fights this weekend and the majority of them featured the middleweights. Not that much of a surprise these days, but a handful of games had the potential to produce some serious heavyweight matchups.
Three multi-fight games went down. The Jackets and Flyers led the way with three on Saturday. Wayne Simmonds handled Derek Dorsett, the ever-active Cody Bass edged out Zac Rinaldo and Harry Zolnierczyk got into his first NHL regular season scrap with James Wisniewski.
Remparts GM and head coach Patrick Roy, never one to keep himself out of the limelight, put the pressure on the league to hit Lessard hard when he stated that disciplinary chief Raymond Bolduc was “too nice a guy” to suspend players.
The Roy factor cannot be underestimated in the length of Lessard’s suspension and he was fined $2500 for the remarks.