Leafs and Sabres Put the 'Exhibition' in Exhibition
Maybe it's still pre-season in the NHL, but it's apparently never too early to get a head start on chippiness among rivals.
Toronto and Buffalo put an exclamation point on that fact last night.
The spark that ingnited the flame came from Toronto's Jamie Devane (6-5; 217) and Buffalo's Corey Tropp (6-0; 185). Anxious to show his grit after a season lost to injury, Tropp clearly bit off more than he could chew.
And after the undercard got the blood flowing, here's the tale of the tape on the featured pairing:
- John Scott, credentialed enforcer ... 6-8 and 270
- Phil Kessel, key to Maple Leaf fortunes ... 6-0 and 200
Even the goalies got into it:
Justified or not, the Sabres were obviously in a retaliatory mood after what happened to Tropp. Any possible doubt of this was dispelled when the hulking Scott lined up against Kessel to turn the tables on what they saw as a cheap-shot size mismatch. That the Leafs' winger decided to make the first touch belies any presence of survival instinct. He's not a fighter; a clutch-and-grab until help arrived would have been much more prudent. And frankly, much more like him.
All told, the referees rang up 239 minutes in penalties and probably wished they could recuse themselves from consideration when these two reconvene for a back-to-back series on 15-16 November.
However, on that day, it's most likely some of the Sabres' combatants will be missing.
It will be interesting to see what the rest of the league -- much less the Sabres -- will have thought of Kessel's stick-swinging by then. Maybe he was giving up a ton of size against Scott, but slashing like that is one of hockey's prime weasel moves.
Odds are he'll be skating with a bodyguard for a while, whenever a game looks like it might get spicy.
For good reason.