Tuesday night the Vancouver Canucks beat the St. Louis Blues in a back-and-forth one goal game. The game featured drastic shifts in momentum from period to period, as well as a couple of “big time” fights featuring heavyweights from both teams. But did these staged brawls do anything to benefit either club?
Canucks fans in favour of fisticuffs may want to continue reading with caution.
Less than three minutes into the hockey game Zack Kassian and Chris Stewart decided to square off in a staged fight in the Vancouver zone. Immediately after the puck was dropped the pair flipped off their gloves, sized each other up, and traded big swings mixed within a colossal grappling session.
Lost in the chaos was the fact that Kassian was making his return to the lineup after re-aggravating a back injury dating back to the start of the NHL season.
Watching the fight replay it is no surprise Kassian again re-aggravated the injury, leaving the Canucks down a player for the rest of the game after only 2:28 in ice time.
While it’s safe to say Kassian must have thought his back was ready for the physical toll of a fight, the cost of his truculence has already surpassed the benefit of escorting the opposition’s best player to the box for five minutes.
No punches landed, no momentum created, just another roster spot to fill.
If the first staged fight wasn’t enough of a waste of time, Tom Sestito made sure to re-enforce the point in the second period. Before Vancouver’s opening goal of the game could be announced Sestito squared off against fellow fourth liner Ryan Reaves, trading mediocre blows before taking each other down the ice in an unimpressive tilt.
Despite the alleged entertainment value of a heavyweight tilt Canucks fans were left asking the same question, what was the point?
Reasonable fans can argue over the entertainment value of a hockey fight, but the team benefit is clearly missing in a majority of NHL fights.
Honestly, what good does Tom Sestito do for the Canucks if he steps onto the ice and beats seven shades of shit out of Ryan Reaves?
It’s OK, I’ll wait.
Reaves, like Sestito, averages less than 10 minutes of ice time per game, and can only expect his ice time to diminish with the Blues trailing in the game. So what is Sestito doing taking one of the Blues less-useful players out of the game while risking a momentum shift?
The only thing he can do.
Tom Sestito averages almost 26 penalty minutes per point, and while many of those minutes are matched by an opponent, some are inevitably dangerous to his hockey club.
His two minute minor for cross-checking during Tuesday’s first period was a perfect example of the costly penalties “tough guys” are known for, and could have given the Blues the lead if not for some big saves by Cory Schneider.
In the midst of serious injury trouble Sestito may be a necessary evil in Vancouver, but moving forward the Canucks simply cannot afford to throw away that roster spot in the name of “toughness” every night.
In the meantime, Canucks fans can only hope Jordan Schroeder and Dale Weise continue to find chemistry on the fourth line. Like truculent teammate Zack Kassian, Sestito may also have injured himself during his Tuesday scrap. Try not to get too upset about it.
ZackKassian (back) not on Nux road trip and TomSestito limping at airport. Nux may need a call upfor Thurs game in Phoenix. #canucks
— Elliott Pap (@ElliottPap) March 20, 2013