NHL opening night is less than two weeks away, and it’s safe to assume the Canadiens, mired in mediocrity and dysfunction, feel like they have a lot to prove. They’re also not going to be very good at hockey, which is often a recipe for a team eager to scrap. Yes, even in preseason.
“It was pretty intense for a preseason game,” Habs forward Paul Byron said of Wednesday’s game against Florida that saw each team take nine penalties.
“I don’t know if they were ready for it, but we’ve been ready. Even in the Red and White game, there were bigger hits than normal. Guys are fighting for jobs and we have a lot of guys in our lineup tonight who were trying to showcase themselves.”
The game featured one real fight, with Byron, coming off shoulder surgery, dropping the gloves with Jonathan Huberdeau:
And then there was this, under a minute in to the third period. Max Domi was acquired this summer from Arizona in a trade for Alex Galchenyuk, and after hearing just about everyone scream about how badly the Canadiens lost that trade—and after being tapped as Montreal’s first-line center, even though it’s not really his natural position and he’s always been pretty bad on faceoffs—well, he’s a little punchy. Aaron Ekblad got on his bad side with a little slash, and Domi wanted to fight. But Ekblad didn’t. So Domi shook off a glove and punched an unsuspecting Ekblad anyway.
If you’re new to this sport, punching is bad unless you first tell the other guy you’re going to punch him and he agrees and says let’s punch. So this was not okay.
“I’m sure the league will look at it and we definitely won’t forget about it,” said Panthers goalie Roberto Luongo. “You don’t do that. You respect your opponents and if your opponent doesn’t want to engage in a fight, there’s no reason to drop your glove and punch him square in the face. Bit of a gutless play. You don’t do those types of things.”
Ekblad was pulled from the game by the league and sent through the concussion protocol, which he passed, and the Panthers says his nose was not broken.
The NHL’s Department of Player Safety will hold a hearing for Domi today, which means it’s our first chance to spin the Wheel of Discipline. I think he should get six games, which would include one regular-season game, but will only get two preseason games.