Leafs v Sabres Redux: Riled but Mild
It was reminiscent of the stories about two warring armies calling a cease fire to accommodate a certain moment.
Ted Nolan had just assumed the reins in Buffalo, 19 years after his controversial dismissal as the Sabres' coach. Toronto was his first opponent, and despite the carnage that resulted from their infamous pre-season line brawl, the Maple Leafs and Sabres managed to negotiate a straightforward game. Nolan's homecoming resulted in a 3-1 victory, dotted with only six minor penalties.
But make no mistake, that was a moment, not a new dawn.
The NHL schedulers' propensity for home-and-home clashes allows ample time for simmering sentiments to spark suddenly into flashpoints, and these two teams currently carry more kindling than most. The major flare finally happened in the third period last night on a seemingly innocuous play:
Clearly, the officials were primed to implement their own version of Minority Report.
Yes, the still-controversial instigator rule is supposed to police incendiary incidents rather than refs with premonitions. And yes, the NHL's general managers still broach the topic every now and then, as they did last week. And of course, the game's stars still go public in favor of fighting being the way players police themselves.
Who knows if there will ever be any resolution on that stuff? Frankly, who knows if the league's poobahs even care if there's any resolution? The debate keeps their game in the news.
And don't expect many more certain moments to interrupt it. If any.