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I Am Begging For A Goalie Fight In Panthers-Bruins

Jeremy Swayman's mask
Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images

As codified by Michigan state law, Patrick Roy is my most-disliked player in NHL history, on account of him being a slimy little weasel whenever the Red Wings and Avalanche battled it out for Western Conference supremacy. But sometimes, I can admit that I'm a little glad that he had the career he did, because he contributed to so many of my favorite hockey moments. I'm thinking of Darren McCarty's hat trick to win Game 1 of the 2002 conference final, or the way his attempt at theatrics backfired during Game 6 of the 2002 conference final, or the way he let in six glorious goals in the first 27 minutes of Game 7 in the 2002 conference final. Without Patrick Roy, none of those things happen in quite the same way.

But I do have to give it up for Roy's willingness to fight. Almost as much as McCarty or Claude Lemieux, Roy added character to a legendary rivalry first when he launched himself into an impromptu tag-team bout in 1997, then when he went mano a mano with Chris Osgood the following year, and finally, as a sort of curtain call, when he made Dominik Hasek skate 200 feet just to fall down.

They don't make 'em like this anymore. As hockey culture has consciously stepped away from the kinds of multi-man free-for-alls that overwhelm officials and allow goalies to tee off on one another, the goalie fight has become one of the game's unicorns. Cam Talbot vs. Mike Smith in (trigger warning) February of 2020 stands out as proof that it can happen when both parties are motivated. But you're more likely to see an eclipse.

However. If any series is built for that explosion of hate that pushes the netminders far outside their blue-painted habitat, it's the Florida Panthers and the Boston Bruins. The Cats shocked a supposedly dominant B's roster in a first-round triumph in 2023, and tempers are boiling over in this second-round rematch. Notorious pests Nick Cousins, Brad Marchand, and Matthew Tkachuk are quite literally the three most punchable players in the NHL as voted by the players, and when the terrible trio crossed paths last year, we got this close to seeing a goalie involved in a brawl.

That series was no finishing school, but it feels way nastier just four games into this one. David Pastrnak and Tkachuk duked it out in Game 2. Underrated Panthers meanie Sam Bennett injured Marchand with an unpunished high hit in Game 3. And in Game 4, it seemed as though every time a player was confronted with a "smash or pass?" question, they opted for the answer with more bruises. The confrontations were messy enough that the U.S. broadcast ran a "PHYSICAL PLAY" video package after just one period, and nobody cleaned up their act in the final 40. My favorite part was when a ref forcibly unglued Tkachuk from a crease scrum.

The Bruins took a 2-0 lead into the first intermission, but the Panthers came clawing back to fortify a 3-1 series advantage. Anton Lundell's laser made for their first goal, and then early in the third, it was Bennett (of course) that pulled off a daring heist, cross-checking Charlie Coyle into Bruins goalie Jeremy Swayman before vacuuming up a loose puck and putting it across the line. Already upset that Bennett was playing in this game while Marchand sat healing, Bruins fans must have assumed that karma would swoop down for the video review. Instead, they heard the infuriating explanation from the league that "there was a shove, but it wasn't enough for goalie interference," and just a few minutes later Aleksander Barkov potted the game winner.

It'd be more than reasonable if all this frustration made a Bruins goalie want to punch a Sunshine Stater, wouldn't it? Swayman may be better known for hugs than hits, but I bet he's got a darker side waiting to take center stage.

God: I know you're reading this, even though you haven't upgraded to commenter yet. I don't ask for much—only world peace and that Dylan Larkin play for the Red Wings until he's 50. On Sunday, I saw Pat Maroon running his mouth near Sergei Bobrovsky during warmups. I saw Swayman and Tkachuk exchanging a mid-game flirtation with their sticks. I think these men want to shed their masks and fight. I'm positive they've got some feelings that they need to let out. Grant them the opportunity. Open the threshold to Youtube immortality. Please? I won't take your name in vain in my blogs for, like, a whole month if you do.

I'd ask, in addition, for the Bruins to keep choking. But you seem to have that one covered already.

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