Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com
The Buffalo Sabres dropped a 3-2 decision at Montreal last night. After getting the lead 1-0 on a goal by forward Nicolas Deslauriers, a mere nine seconds later the Canadiens tied the score thus completely wasting a brilliant moment in the spotlight for Deslauriers who was born in LaSalle, Quebec a borough of Montreal.
Deslauriers followed that goal, his fifth of the season, with a spirited bout against the Candiens' Mike Brown that featured more wrestling that punches thrown and it left him just an assist shy of the Gordie Howe hattrick. His stat-line read one goal on two shots, six hits and five penalty minutes. Do you think he was fired up playing in front of family and friends in his hometown?
Alas. Not that put too much emphasis on the three stars of the game, as homerism usually wins out, but if you're gonna give the visiting the third star in their one-goal loss, wouldn't Deslauriers' performance be worthy of that?
Nope. No love from the hometown. The third star of the game was awarded to Jack Eichel who registered four shots in 22:12 of ice-time.
Look, I get it. Eichel is a phenom and future face of the NHL along with Connor McDavid. And, yes, he's a fantastic player who is typically the best player on the ice for the Sabres. But, my God, in this one game, where a bottom-six hometown boy actually outshines the phenom, how can you not allow Deslauriers his shining moment and award him that third star?
Deslauriers exuberance after his goal was shown in his one-knee fist pump and was a celebration worthy of the moment. Not only did he score, which is rare, but he did it in his hometown, and he did so with a fantastic tip that ringed in off of the post.
Hockey players celebrations are generally tame and centered around arms in the air and immediate hugs and head pats from teammates on the ice. But there extra special moments where extra celebrations are warranted. Hot-dogging and showboating are generally frowned upon and I can't remember a case where the goal-scorer stared down a goalie after a big goal.
There's been a big ta-do over Hall of Fame pitcher "Goose" Gossages profanity laced tirade directed at Jose Bautista's game-winning, bat-flinging 7th inning, three-run shot in the 2015 ALDS. The homer broke a 3-3 tie and propelled the Toronto Blue Jays past the Texas Ranger. It was a signature moment for Bautista an the Blue Jays and his bat-flip became instant legend.
But what irks many, especially the old-school Gossage, a relief pitcher for the NY Yankees and World Series winner, was the brief staredown and the lengthy toss of the bat by Bautista.
"Bautista is a f---ing disgrace to the game," Gossage told ESPN. "He's embarrassing to all the Latin players, whoever played before him. Throwing his bat and acting like a fool, like all those guys in Toronto. [Yoenis] Cespedes, same thing."
Personally, I think Gossage went a little overboard in that criticism as the moment was so electric that some players who are extremely talented while also being naturally extroverted are prone to erupt in charged atmosphere. That Gossage was a relief pitcher himself only added to the consternation and even if Bautista was staring down the Rangers' Sam Dyson in a contemptuous manner, there's really no recourse to correct an act like that. Bautista might get beaned in the next meeting, and the benches might even clear. Hell, there may even be some punches thrown, but there will never be the one-on-one throw-down we see on the ice.
Hockey, however, is a bit different. Even though the league took out self-policing by the players, the rink is still enclosed and the perpetrator of a crime against the dignity of the game would still have to hit the ice with no where to run. There are ways to get at self-aggrandizing players and every NHL player knows that.
Hockey players are unlike players in baseball, basketball, or football. You won't see them doing a Mark Gastineau type dance after checking someone into the boards. Nor will you see a LeBron James chest thump after scoring a breakaway empty-netter. There are consequences.
Celebrations are cool. Celebrations with extra mustard in an extra special moment are cool as well. Celebrations that capture the moment yet in no way show contempt for the opposing team is well within reason.
When they start taking selfies on the court, or on base, or on the 50-yard line in a meaningless game, that's when it might be going a little overboard.
It was a scary scene in Montreal last night as Canadiens defenseman PK Subban had his neck snapped back on an awkward play. Subban laid there on the ice motionless while the crowd was silent.
Despite what one might think of Subban, as those outside of Montreal consider him a showboater, nobody likes to see something like that happen.
Word is that he's moving his limbs and is doing well. Good for him.
Finally, with the injury to the Sabres top center Ryan O'Reilly, head coach Dan Bylsma has had to shuffle his top-six.
Eichel has been flanked by Evander Kane and Sam Reinhart during O'Reilly's absence and the trio has responded well.
Johan Larsson is centering the second line with Brian Gionta on one wing and Marcus Foligno on the other. They've also been playing well.
What Bylsma will do when O'Reilly returns is up in the air as he probably doesn't want to mess with his top-six players on his top two lines.