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Highlight Of Devils’ Season Is Line Brawl

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - APRIL 03: Matt Rempe #73 of the New York Rangers fights Kurtis MacDermid #23 of the New Jersey Devils at Madison Square Garden on April 3, 2024 in New York City. (Photo by Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images)
Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images

It can be tough to remember, specifically, what the Devils are mad about at this point. It was the ejection-worthy February hit laid on Nathan Bastian by hulking newcomer Matt Rempe, but it was also Rempe refusing to fight—under orders not to fight—Kurtis MacDermid seeking to avenge and/or punish the Bastian hit in their next meeting, even though MacDermid hadn't been a Devil for the first one, but it was also also the other ejection-worthy hit Rempe delivered to Jonas Siegenthaler later in that rematch. Following all this? Let's simplify. It's Matt Rempe. The Devils are mad about Matt Rempe.

During their final meeting of the season in New York Wednesday evening, Rangers coach Peter Laviolette accommodated the Devils' desire for revenge by dressing Rempe after three straight healthy scratches, and, what's more, sending out Rempe's fourth line for puck drop. If the idea was to get the shenanigans out of the way early and settle in for a normal hockey game, well, the shenanigans were not about to take a back seat to anything. Eight players were ejected and 132 penalty minutes handed out in the first two seconds of the game.

A good old-fashioned line brawl, though I'd debate just how "good" it was. Genuine bad blood is one thing, but premeditated fights, especially between guys with no history, always feel a little silly—what beef exactly do (say) John Marino and K'Andre Miller have? For another, the Devils seemed like they were punching their own interests in the face. They entered the night, somehow, just six points out of a playoff spot with seven games to play, in a wild card race where nobody appears willing or capable of seizing control. A win would've been a big deal! Instead, New Jersey sent its checking line to the showers two seconds in. I'm glad they feel like they have their pride or whatever, but that's loser behavior.

On the other hand: I'm but a simple man. Hockey men fight, lizard brain lights up. Had I been in the building I would have been standing and stomping and hollering obscenities about the PATH train. The visuals of a line brawl are regularly delightful, and this one was no exception. Miller standing over Marino then hitting him with the "too small." A bloody-mouthed Rempe encouraging the crowd. Goalie Igor Shesterkin sheepishly putting gear back on after failing to find a fight partner. Coaches hollering at each other. Overhead views of the line brawl, which TNT really dropped the ball on:

Oh, did you want to know about the actual game? The Rangers scored some goals, then the Devils scored some goals, then the Rangers scored some more and won 4-3. They swept the season series between these two rivals and are sitting pretty atop the standings, while the Devils dropped their third straight to make the playoffs even more improbable. Therein, I think, lies the skeleton key to analyzing hockey fisticuffs. Good teams fighting are perceived as coming together, standing up for their guys, being galvanized as a locker room. Bad teams fighting is loser shit.

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