Gabriel Landeskog is no dummy. Landeskog became the youngest captain in NHL history (19 years, 286 days) when the Avalanche stapled the “C” to his jersey on Sept. 4, 2012.
So when Milan Lucic shed his left glove in Thursday’s second period and threatened to do the same with his right, Landeskog responded wisely. He kept his gloves glued to his hands and allowed Lucic to rage.
Lucic shoved Landeskog early in the tussle, which took place at 19:09 of the second period. After some more jawing, Lucic ended the confrontation by pushing Landeskog again.
In the aftermath, Landeskog kept all his teeth, while Lucic lost 12 minutes of action (two for roughing plus a 10-minute misconduct). For the game, Lucic had one shot and four hits in 11:56 of ice time.
“Absolutely,” said Colorado coach Patrick Roy when asked if Landeskog did the right thing. “First of all, we don’t have anything to prove fighting with him. I don’t believe fighting is that important in our game. At the same time, there’s no need for Gabe to go into the box for 10 minutes or 15 minutes. We need him on the ice. He’s one of our best players. I thought that was smart of him.”
It’s hard to say whether Thursday’s outcome, a 2-0 Colorado win, would have been different had Lucic kept his cool. Jarome Iginla ripped off a game-high seven shots. David Krejci created puck possession by winning 13 of 18 draws.
“Looch was trying to get the team going, I guess,” Patrice Bergeron said. “Maybe it was one shot too many. But he’s still trying to do his job and get the guys going.”
But it didn’t help that Boston’s power line lost a whole lot of muscle for more than half of the third period.
“You’re not going to win that war anyway, whether you complain about it or not,” said coach Claude Julien. “The other guy’s still chirping him and gives him a shot. The referee decides [Lucic] is going to be taking the 10. Certainly not what you want as a coach. An important player like that, you’d rather have him on the ice. I thought it was a bit soft, to be honest with you.”
The flare-up started after Avalanche goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere covered the puck. The initial dustup took place between Krejci and P.A. Parenteau. Lucic checked on the fuss. Landeskog grabbed Lucic from behind. Lucic just about exploded.
Landeskog is Colorado’s No. 2 right wing. Lucic believed that because his opponent was Landeskog, who is not known for the rough stuff, the referees tagged him with the extra 10 minutes. Had Lucic done the same with big boy Patrick Bordeleau, who had dropped the mitts earlier with Shawn Thornton, the left wing might have escaped the 10-minute smackdown.
“Just a grab from behind in the face. Just an altercation,” Lucic said. “I bet you if I would have pushed Bordeleau at the end of it, I don’t get 10 minutes.”
Landeskog has one career fight and had no plans of adding a second to his résumé. It would have been a one-sided fight had Lucic dropped his gloves and pounded away. To his credit, he followed The Code.
“I don’t know. You’re going to have to ask him that,” Lucic said, when asked if he thought Landeskog might drop his gloves. “I was fired up. Unfortunately, I got 10 minutes for it.”
Lucic’s game centers on emotion. When he is playing angry, there is no player who enjoys engaging him in a puck battle, especially near the boards. There’s a good chance Lucic will deposit his head through the glass (see Van Ryn, Mike).
But it’s a fine line to balance. Everybody around the NHL, opponents and referees alike, know that Lucic’s kettle can boil over. A team like Colorado can turn that temper into a liability. Referees might be quicker to blow their whistles because of Lucic’s reputation.
“If someone pushed me like that at the end of an altercation,” said Lucic, “I highly doubt they would have gotten 10 minutes.”
The Bruins could have used Lucic’s frame in front. Giguere (39 saves) had good looks at most pucks. Lucic’s net-front presence might have disrupted Giguere’s rhythm.
“What we had to do was get a little bit more traffic in front of a hot goaltender and take his eyes away,” Julien said. “We didn’t do a good enough job of that. When we were in front, even looking from the bench, you could still see the puck. I don’t think we took his eyes away.”
With Lucic unavailable, Julien had to adjust his lines. Daniel Paille replaced Lucic on the first line. Jordan Caron double shifted in Paille’s spot on the fourth line.
At 11:20 of the third period, Lucic’s banishment ended. But at the same time, Loui Eriksson was whistled for embellishment. Thirty-six seconds later, Landeskog was sent off for hooking. On the four-on-three power play, Julien rolled out Krejci, Iginla, Torey Krug, and Zdeno Chara.
It wasn’t until 16:26 of the third period that Lucic took his first full shift alongside Krejci and Iginla. Lucic responded by barreling over Andre Benoit, then yapping with Parenteau. Lucic also tossed some barbs toward the Colorado bench.
Lucic was on the ice when Tuukka Rask was pulled for an extra skater. But Matt Duchene capped the Colorado win with an empty-net goal.
By game’s end, Lucic was sitting on the end of the bench. As the Avalanche congratulated Giguere, Lucic took a last pull on a water bottle. Then he spiked it. Lucic’s temper had no intentions of going away.