Wow...wotta game! The Leafs took out the Thrashers 9-1 in what was, at times, the very best of the 'new' NHL: fast; chances for some of the leagues' best shooters; huge saves by Eddie. It was also, unquestionably some of the worst of the NHL - with the game far, far out of reach, we saw a truly disgraceful hit on Darcy Tucker that resulted in a gash over Tucker's eye that will require 20-22 stitches to close and a hit on Nik Antropov resulting in a gash under his eye that will require 10-12 stitches to close (although it's possible that the hit was unintended).
For those of you who watched the game, you'll notice that there is no whinging and whining about the fights - although it's not a 'PC' position to take, I firmly believe that all true hockey fans like a good fight. The idea that fighting in the NHL has to be eliminated in order to keep fans - or worse yet, to attract fans - is ludicrous. Those who are already hockey fans know that fighting has always been part of the game; not just for the sake of throwing a few haymakers, but because hockey is a physical game - a team sport - and sometimes, the message must be sent that the team will not stand for one of their own to be treated in a certain way. A two, four or five minute penalty really means nothing to a player - but he will remember that a cheap shot on Mats Sundin or Keith Primeau results in Tie Domi (recently, Wade Belak) or Donald Brashear beating on your head. The penalty is fleeting; the bruises will stay around a little longer. And frankly, very few people get Hurt (with a capital H) in a fight. Let me be clear here: the whole Bertuzzi / Moore thing was NOT a fight. Do not point to this as an example of why fighting does not belong in the NHL. Whether you feel that Bertuzzi got too much, or not enough, the one thing that most everyone seems to agree on is that it was not a fight; it was a horrible, horrible incident: either a cowardly, intentional attack or a terrible accident resulting from emotion overruling common sense.
If Commissioner Bettman wants to eliminate fighting in the NHL to attract new fans whose delicate sensibilities might be offended by the occasional fight, this is simply a betrayal of the legacy of the sport which has been entrusted to him.
And as a final note regarding this issue: even in Atlanta, there wasn't a single fan actually in their seat during the fight. OK, that might be an exaggeration, but seriously, when you catch the replay, take a look at the stands. You'll see that the majority of the spectators are on their feet, cheering.
The brightest spot in the game HAD to be Eddie Belfour; after a shaky outing last time, he showed why he's among the top goaltenders in the league with a fantastic game in which he made some truly impressive saves. I don't care how old he is; there's no one I'd rather have in net for Toronto except possibly Marty Brodeur. Way to go Eddie!
On a final note, Congrats to Jeff O'Neill for picking up his 200th career goal!