Last night and into this morning debates have raged on in the Blogosphere and on Twitter regarding Dan Carcillo's fight with Marian Gaborik in Philly last night.
Did Carcillo go out of his way to find Gaborik during a scrum beside the Flyers' net in the second period? Did Gaborik initiate the fight by being the first to drop his gloves once the two became entangled? Did Carcillo break an unwritten rule that noted pugilists should not throw down with noted non-fighters? Was Carcillo targeting Gaborik because he is the Rangers' best player? Why didn't any Ranger rush to Gaborik's defense? Did John Tortorella overreact on the bench and in his post-game press conference? Does Peter Laviolette condone Carcillo's actions whom he, of course, supported after the game, or was he a bit queasy by seeing Carcillo pummel Gaborik, as well?
Great debates, all of them.
If you have not seen the fight yet, check it out here.
Most likely your opinion on this will depend largely on if you are a Rangers' fan or a Flyers' fan. The Rangers' supporter will claim that the blood-thirsty Carcillo could have let Blair Betts pull Gaborik out of the scrum, but instead saw an opportunity to get at New York's best player. The Flyers' fan will retort that Carcillo just yanked the first guy out of the pile he saw, and only was willing to fight when Gaborik dropped his gloves first.
The truth, of course, lies somewhere in the middle. I don't really think Carcillo is such an innocent here, but Gaborik was more than willing to have a go with him. In fact, while Tortorella sarcastically said that Carcillo "is a real brave guy" and added that there "was no honor" in what he did, Gaborik himself had this to say after the game:
"I think there was a little scrum in front and we got caught up and dropped the gloves. That's what happens. Obviously, he got a few shots in on me but that's hockey."
So the guy most affected by what happened, the superstar who took a beating from a noted heavyweight, shrugged the whole thing off.
Of course Carcillo did not make himself look so good or innocent after the game when he said, "I was pretty much licking my chops" when Gaborik dropped his gloves.
As big a story as this fight is, there are two larger ones from last night's game the way I see it. The Rangers did not protect their best player, just as they have not protected their star goalie, Henrik Lundqvist, who has been repeatedly banged around by opponents this season. And if the Flyers play as they did last night the rest of the second half and into the playoffs, then they are going to be the threat I believed they could be when the season started.
Philly shut down the neutral zone, as well as the shooting and passing lanes in their defensive zone all night long. They created many more prime scoring chances with a diligent forecheck. As a result Ray Emery barely broke a sweat in a 2-0 shutout victory.
That is key for Philly moving forward. A strong team defense takes the emphasis off the team's weakest link, goaltending. Add in some opportunitstic offense last night against a hot goalie in Lundqvist, as well as some added swagger on home ice (5-0-0 last 5 at the Wachovia Center), and a real physical edge (four fights and some big bombs thrown against the Rangers), and these Flyers could certainly throw a scare into both Pittsburgh and Washington in the East.
When all is said and done regarding last night's game, that might be the most important fact, though right now, it is the most overlooked.