A big portion of the discussion after Tuesday's life-affirming victory was Brandon Bollig's fight with Ryan Reaves at the end of the first, after Reaves had gone after Jamal Mayers with a borderline hit. Some fans loved it, others hated it, the players said it woke them up. Our job is to suss out the truth from all of that.
Let's get one myth out of the way. The fight did not inspire the Hawks to better play in the 2nd and 3rd periods. They played just fine in the 1st, with the proper want-to and energy, but were let down by slipshod goaltending and some defensive mistakes. On the scoreboard it looked bad, but on the balance of play to the naked eye, it did not.
But of course those are the quotes you're going to get from a victorious locker room when they're asked about it. If no one had asked any player's opinion of the fight, it would have gone down as a barely memorable occurrence in the game. But give hockey players that chance, and they'll back their teammate every time. Would you expect them to say, "Well, we can't really be shorthanded already down two goals there, and we have to be smarter?" No, of course not.
As for the hot debating action among fans, on the one side we have those who loved the rushing to defend a teammate and those who thought a penalty while already down two goals to the best defensive team in the league was a bad idea. The funny thing here is, neither is particularly wrong.
It kind of comes down to chance. If Bollig hadn't been on the ice at that time, it probably never comes up. No one else on the team is going to take on Reaves, and then everyone would label the Hawks soft. But that's how Bollig got here, and that's what he's going to do.
On the other side, taking an extra penalty there is hurtful to the team, and could have cost the Hawks a chance to come back. A three-goal deficit would be a bridge too far. It was a big risk.
But at the heart of it, the argument for defending a teammate or having a goon just doesn't hold up to logical debate. Or at least it wouldn't if everyone in the game didn't believe it. It's like a mass delusion. Think about it: In the brief half-second a player has to decide whether a hit is legal and whether he cares, and then debate whether or not the one guy who might fight him over it is on the ice or not, or whether he cares, and even if he is he knows he'll be off the ice for pretty much the rest of the game and hence not be around to police the next hit?
Kind of ridiculous, no?