That crunching sound you hear is the sound of Duck bills smacking their way through the Arizona Coyotes’ lunch. 21-4 was the shot total in period one of the Ducks-Dogs game Friday night. And this without the Anaheim squad featuring its captain. That’s right—Getzlaf was out a second straight game. Nick Ritchie, too, though he was spotted the press box.
In their place, Randy Carlyle iced a surprisingly stable lineup, until Kesler got his block knocked off by little Max Domi at the end of the first. That was a one-punch knockout, an uppercut that caught Kesler flush underneath the chin as he struggled to tie up Domi’s arms. A second punch was delivered as Kesler was on his way down, but the damage was done. He half-sat on the ice, that cold-cocked look on his face. He had to be helped off to the dressing room.
The lesson: don’t mess with the kid with the crazy gene. Remember whose dad had the hardest head in the league for, what, a decade? Yeah, Domi was the name. I doubt this kid will be bothered much in future.
Anyway, the lines had been like this: Rakell-Sgarbossa-Perry was the first unit. What was funny was that that first line played not until the fourth position as the game began, and even then, they took a very short shift and were replaced by the line that had started the game, Cramarossa-Vermette-Kase. Then there was Garbutt-Wagner-Boll. And then Cogliano-Kesler-Silfverberg. But with Kesler gone, the trios had to change. Didn’t matter much, though, as the Ducks had already blown out to a 3-0 lead on a bunch of goals that left the Arizona keeper, Louis Domingue, out to dry. He wouldn’t return to the net for period two.
The first two goals came on uncharacteristically long passes off the stick of Corey Perry, who normally gets his goals, anyway, from about a yardstick off the goal line. The first was on the PP, and Perry threw a puck out to the top of the circle despite having a lane to the net on the right side, his favorite spot. Bieksa buried a slapper.
The second goal came off a slap-pass from Perry wide across the ice to Rakell, who buried one. Long pass, Perry? You saw it here first.
Period two began with the Ducks up 3-0 and lazy. They allowed the Coyotes to get to their net several times by playing a game decidedly not featuring defense. The Coyotes had four shots to Anaheim’s one. Meanwhile, the Ducks were mixing lines so much it was difficult to keep up. It wasn’t until about the seven-minute mark that they once again featured the lines they’d started with. Then Kesler came out to take his spot, to a giant cheer, at 8:28.
Fine, fine, a nice moment. But the question has to be asked—smart/not smart? The man had been knocked, at least momentarily, unconscious. He took another blow after the one the rendered him googly. And he had to be helped off the ice.
This is called a brain injury, people, and the result, especially in a 3-0 game that you’re only not leading by more because you’re temporarily playing shinny, should be that you sit. Down. With a doctor nearby. For the rest of the night. And he’d better not be a PhD. We don’t do concussion work.
Kesler wasn’t made available to talk to after the game, but Kevin Bieksa, who helped him off the ice, “explained” things. “That happens, right. If you’re a guy who gets into the occasional fight, or gets into a lot of fights, at some point, you’re gonna get caught with one. It’s part of the game. There’s a little bit of concern right away, and from both teams. They’re respectful about it too, because Max Domi is aware of fighting in hockey, and he’s seen a lot. You win some, you lose some, and he was respectful and that, but Kes is a warrior. He came right back, and you’re not going to keep Kes down, that’s for sure.” (Unless you’re following proper medical protocol and realize that it’s in his best interest to make sure he’s OK and to give him some rest.)
So the defenseman’s not a doctor. He ought to maybe try playing one on TV. (OK, that joke is going right over the head of most of you youngsters. The idea is simple—think about concussions, rather than an honor code that endangers the honorable.)
When asked what Bieksa said to Kesler when he was helping the latter off the ice, he said, “He just looked at me with a big smile, and I just started laughing when I saw his smile, because there’s a lot of things going on there, but uh, I was glad to see him come back.”
He added, “He’s seen me get caught before, too. Like I said, everybody who fights gets caught. Nobody’s immune to it.”
But that’s why there are protocols.
OK, enough. Who really cares what happens in deepest, darkest California in the middle of Friday night with a team from Phoenix in town? Well, the answer to that is obvious—the league should, if the team won’t, and there was no reason for this guy to play any more.
Interestingly enough, the Ducks got back to business with him back on the ice. The shots went to 22-8, and then to 26-9, which was proportionally what they had been in P1, and the score upped itself to 4-0.
Arizona got one back as the period started to wind to the end, and they caught up in shots, too, ending period two down 27-17.
Surely the boy child who runs the team, sitting just over from me in the GM’s box, had hope. But it was not to deliver. The Ducks buckled down in P3 and scored once more before it was over, adding to their shot total to end at 33-22. Afterwards, their coach was happy with the results, which mitigated a 5-1 loss to Pittsburgh two nights prior. When asked to explain how he had approached the team in the two intervening days, he said he had treated them “more matter of fact than anything. And we still had things that we did tonight that are going to have to get corrected, some of the situations, and I think tonight was more of a statement that we have to approach the game differently than we were the first five or six games.”
He also called this “a start we can build on,” adding that “fortunately, we had more life and more jump than they did.”
They now await Calgary Sunday. The Flames will have played the Kings Saturday at Staples Center.
Shea Theodore is back in the AHL for some seasoning. Mason Raymond refused a send-down to that same league and is now released. Jacob Larsson was sent back to his Swedish team, which was previously agreed if he didn’t stick in the NHL. And the aforementioned Ondrej Kase was in his second game. He’s from the Czech Republic. Kase registered an assist, his first NHL point.
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