A brawl between noted hockey pugilists Jared Boll of the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Vancouver Canucks' Darcy Hordichuk is enough to get excited about, but this fight from last night has a really remarkable bonus feature: an ice-level, from-the-bench view shot from a Sportsnet cameraman. If you ever wondered what it was like for Curtis Sanford to watch a fight in Vancouver, here you go:
Wow, there were some really stiff shots in this one. And thanks to the camerawork, it was like watching "Cloverfield 2: Five for Fighting" for a few seconds there.
The strength required for a heavyweight hockey fight is mind-blowing at times. Not only the body control it takes for balance and force, but the energy a fighter needs to expend keeping his opponent in check. It's OK in a post-Don Sanderson world to call these fights exploitive and unnecessary -- to each his or her own. But you have to respect the science of it, at least a little.
About that game last night, where the Blue Jackets skated away with a 6-5 skills competition win against the Canucks. Two words: Rick Nash. He didn't make the Three Stars cut, but he was a difference-maker in his first game back from injury for the BJs and on a night when rookie Steve Mason (25 saves) was very, very human. He assisted on Jason Williams's power play goal and then scored on a powerful wraparound to tie the game near the end of the second. In the shootout, he beat Roberto Luongo for the definitive goal.
It's obviously a critical season for Columbus as far as a playoff push goes, and the same can be said for Nash. In theory, he's in the same situation as Ilya Kovalchuk of the Atlanta Thrashers: UFA status in Summer 2010, the face of a franchise who could bolt for greener pastures.
But he's not on Kovalchuk's level as a player, and it's not just due to one having 273 career goals and the other having a respectable 172 (or the fact that one married a Russian goddess ... though it helps.) It's based on reputation: That Kovalchuk is a franchise player, while Nash is a few pegs down.
So here are the questions: Do you consider Rick Nash an elite player? Can Nash elevate himself to franchise-player status if he helps carry the Blue Jackets to their first postseason berth with efforts like last night's?