It took less than two periods for Jarome Iginla to punch someone.
Midway through the second period in Thursday night’s season opener against the Lightning, Iginla dropped the gloves with Radko Gudas, endearing himself to a home crowd that seemed a touch reluctant to fully accept the former Flame and Penguin immediately.
The fight seemed to help.
“It’s definitely part of Bruins hockey, playing against them over the years and watching them,” Iginla said. “It’s a very competitive, aggressive team.
“Trying to play alongside of that and contribute in those areas. Try to play physical, try to go [to] the net. Sometimes fights happen. It happened to be in the first game. Every guy takes a lot of pride in competing hard. Fights do happen. Guys are ready for that, too.”
Despite Iginla’s reputation, his statistics say that he only engages in a handful of fights a year — from a high of six to a low of one, according to hockeyfights.com. He had three last season, including a memorable bout with Nathan Horton that left the former Bruin with a separated shoulder.
Still, even as the game has attempted to limit fighting without banning it, Iginla believes that it’s a key component of hockey. It’s a topic that has come up again in the wake of the George Parros incident last week, when the Canadiens enforcer went down during a fight with the Maple Leafs’ Colton Orr, slamming his face into the ice. Orr had started to fall and grabbed onto Parros, bringing him down, too. Parros was released from the hospital Friday.
“Definitely a scary incident,” Iginla said. “You hate to see those type of situations come from fighting, for sure.”
A collection of respected general managers — including Tampa Bay’s Steve Yzerman, Carolina’s Jim Rutherford, and Pittsburgh’s Ray Shero — told TSN last week that it might be time for the league to become more aggressive in its treatment of fighting.
Rutherford was quoted as saying, “We’ve got to get rid of fighting, it has to go.”
But the players continue to not always be on the same page.
“I grew up with it,” Iginla said. “There’s still that argument on the other side that if there wasn’t any — I still think it keeps people accountable. I think there’d be more stickwork. I think maybe that’s the way it’s going. But I’ve seen it get less and less — I mean, they used to have bench-clearing brawls, they used to have line brawls that were pretty regular.”
He added, “I don’t mind less of it, [but] I don’t know if I’m there where I’d like to see it all gone.”
Iginla pointed out that over his 17-year career the number of premeditated fights has lessened, with the players that teams employ usually needing to do more than be willing to fight. But he doesn’t think it’s going away any time soon — nor does he want to see it go. Not entirely.
“I think honestly part of it is entertainment,” Iginla said. “Part of it is. There are a lot of fans that do like that aggression. I think it would be a little bit chippier.
“Part of it is it’s been a part of our sport for so long. So, I think in my opinion I don’t mind seeing less of it, [but] like I said, I don’t think I’m there where I’d like to see it all gone.”
Lined up well
The Bruins’ third line was the one that entered the season with the most questions. Two games into the season, it’s the line that’s played the best. While Loui Eriksson has yet to figure out the new system entirely and Iginla has been held mostly in check, the unexpected trio of Jordan Caron, Chris Kelly, and Reilly Smith has been aggressive and effective thus far.
Asked why they’ve clicked so quickly, coach Claude Julien gave credit to the line’s work ethic.
Kelly acknowledged how poorly the third line played last season — and emphasized how well the new group is playing.
“You guys had every right last year to question that line, and coming into camp as well,” Kelly said. “I know it’s only two games, and you guys are still going to — that’s your job to question it, but I think the first two games we’ve gone out there and played well and proved that we can play and contribute offensively and defensively and play against other teams’ top two lines or bottom two lines, whoever it may be.”
Give it time
Given that Carl Soderberg has not yet recovered from his ankle injury, Julien called it “premature” to wonder what will happen when the left wing has recovered. He was, of course, the intended winger on the third line, rather than Caron. “When the time comes, I’ll deal with Carl being back in,” Julien said. “It’s a long year. I can give you all the clichés that you want, but I think, at the end of the day, all you want is to see what kind of decision I’ll make and I’m certainly not about to make that decision now.” . . . The Bruins have killed off all seven of the penalties they’ve faced. They’re second to the Blues (11) in the number of penalties killed without allowing a goal.Amalie Benjamin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @amaliebenjamin.