While the playoff teams are set, seeding is not and the game has a big part to play for four of the eight Eastern Conference teams entering the postseason.
Seeding scenarios after the jump
As the NHL regular season comes to a close and teams start to prepare for the playoffs settling scores, risking momentum swings and fighting have predictably slowed down. However, that hasn't stopped some gloves from falling to the ice entirely in the past couple of days.
In last night's Philadelphia Flyers and Boston Bruins game Jay Rosehill and Shawn Thornton found some time half-way through the second to throw down. The scrap started out sloppy, but once Rosehill got righted, thanks to Thornton giving him the chance to, the two threw with disregard for defense until they tired out and locked up.
Last night's Toronto Maple Leafs - New York Islanders game featured two of the toughest lineups possible from any two teams in the NHL. The heavyweight battles that occurred certainly didn't disappoint the fight fans eager to see the fisticuffs, with one of the battles vaulting straight to fight of the year candidacy.
About midway through the first, with the Leafs up 2-0, Matt Carkner and Frazer McLaren met up behind the play and had a solid bout. Carkner was throwing with the left, and McLaren was lobbing massive right hands. After some exchanged bombs, Carkner's jersey comes up, and the two hit the ice.
On the ensuing faceoff, Eric Boulton and Colton Orr decide to one-up their teammates and have an all-out war. The action started fast and furious with both players exchanging huge right hands. After a brief lull to adjust, they got right back to landing right-handed haymakers flush on the other. At one point Orr lands well enough to send Boulton's helmet flying and Boulton just keeps going, landing his own right hand snapping Orr's head back.
Both players made gestures to the standing crowd, and each other, for the slugfest.
The Islanders would roar back in the first with three goals after the fights, adding two more before the Leafs added a late 5 on 3 goal to finish up the scoring 5-3, in favor of the Isles.
The Sens 6'5" defenseman Jared Cowen made his season debut for the Sens after being injured throughout the beginning of the shortened campaign and found the Canes a feisty team to comeback to action against.
Next up was Cowen again, this time with noted heavyweight Kevin Westgarth forcing the issue. Cowen did a good job of limiting Westgarth with his reach, and after a few punches was taken down to the ice.
Late in the second Chris Neil and Tim Gleason found some time to drop the mitts and go rock'em sock'em in a very solid, entertaining fight. Commenters on-site and on our social networks have called Neil out for some late punching.
Saturday night had a heavy dose of gloves off action in the NHL with seven fights on the board, five coming from two games.
The Boston Bruins and Carolina Hurricanes had a rough first period with three fights coming in the first 20 minutes. Getting things started were heavyweights Shawn Thornton and Kevin Westgarth who engaged in a locked-out tactical match with few punches exchanged.
Less than a minute later Gregory Campbell and Nicolas Blanchard dropped the gloves off of a faceoff and had a heck of a dance. They entered the spin-cycle with each player winging rights, Blanchard doing a great job slipping underneath the bombs from Campbell and Campbell deflecting and slipping a lot of Blanchard's shots.
In the second period he dropped the gloves with Francis Bouillon.
Towards the end of the game he was frustrated, throwing his stick and helmet onto the Sabres bench. The repair of his lid led to the screenshot above and me having a little fun on Facebook and Twitter (and Google + and Pinterest...).
In the video below Ott talks about his frustration with losing the game and the Sabres hopes at a playoff spot fading fast.
As the playoff stretch run for most teams takes place, we see the usual decline in fighting majors levied. Last nights slate of nine games only produced two fights, one from two very likely and willing combatants, and the other a fight out of necessity for a goalie being ran over. Fighting numbers, now only slightly up from last season, are likely to get closer in number over the next couple of weeks.
Two minutes into the Pittsburgh Penguins and Carolina Hurricanes game, heavyweights Deryk Engelland and Kevin Westgarth dropped the gloves and engaged in a tactical battle. Given each others fighting accolades, past and present, it's no surprise neither man was too willing to open up. That didn't stop Engelland from landing a great punch, a counter right half way into the scrap that snapped Westgarth's head back.
Ryane Clowe was traded to the New York Rangers for draft picks. He arrived after picking up 11 assists in 28 games for the San Jose Sharks. No goals, a few fights. A disappointing season for the 30-year old powerforward.
A new coast and a new jersey have reinvigorated Clowe. In two games for the Rangers, both against the Pittsburgh Penguins, Clowe has put all of his skills on display.
In game one Clowe netted his first two goals of the season as well as adding an assist and dishing out four hits en route to the Rangers 6-1 trouncing of the Pens.
Watching Clowe is like watching a new player. More comfortable and playing a style of game sorely needed in New York after the Rangers have been without gritty players like Brandon Prust and Mike Rupp for the majority of this season.
There were no slugfests, no drawn-out grapple-fests or knockouts, but the battles in the Battle of Ontario are still happening.
Matt Kassian took on both of Toronto's heavyweights in similar, quick bouts. Colton Orr quickly lost his balance and fell after a punch early in the first, and Kassian did the same versus Frazer McLaren later in the period.
The scoreboard was the Nazem Kadri show. After an opening power play goal by Joffrey Lupul, which Kadri had an assist on, Kadri then scored the next three goals for a natural hat trick - all assisted by Lupul. The Leafs shutout the Sens 4-0.
The first two games of the series this year went fightless. March 6th's game saw two fights, and the teams upped it to three last night with a scrum at the end. The Leafs and Sens meet for the last time (in the regular season, at least) on April 20th in Ottawa.
The Colorado Avalanche and Calgary Flames game had chatter hours before it started due to the announcement that Jarome Iginla was a healthy scratch. Immediately rumors swirled about which team he would be traded to.
A few minutes into the game Brian McGrattan dropped the gloves with Patrick Bordeleau. Anyone who's watched either player would have high expectations of such a match-up and the two delivered. An open, superheavyweight slugfest went down and the crowd (and Mike Haynes) went wild. It's currently pacing as the top rated NHL fight of the year.
I asked McGrattan if he knew much about Bordeleau going into the game. He said, "Not really, I just knew he was a big guy and has had some good tilts this year." He added, "Finally a guy that fights like me!"
I'll have to start adding a note to bouts like this. A new site acronym: JFWI.