Our man in Toronto, Rob Del Mundo witnessed the biggest brouhaha of the preseason between the Leafs and Sabres.
His report follows but before we get to it, the question inevitably emerges: was such bloodshed necessary or was it the inevitable outcome of keen, preseason exhibition hockey?
It was ‘only’ a preseason game, but the Sunday night matchup between division rivals Toronto and Buffalo featured a huge melee that resulted in a dozen misconducts, and a likely 10-game suspension to one of the Leafs’ newest acquisitions.
The Leafs won 5-3 on the scoreboard, but the main storyline of the game was a line brawl that occurred at the midway mark of the third period.
Following a two-person altercation in which Toronto’s Jamie Devane sent Buffalo’s Corey Tropp to the dressing room with a knockout punch, Sabres pugilist John Scott targeted the Leafs’ Phil Kessel on the ensuing faceoff.
Kessel retaliated with a pair of vicious slashes on Scott, earning the Leafs winger a ten-minute match penalty, while Scott was flagged as the instigator, collecting a pair of misconducts.
“Scott said he was going to drop me, so I just backed up. He’s 6-foot-8,” said Kessel, whose two-goal performance was overshadowed by the brawl. “I’m proud of my teammates coming to my aid, I thanked them all.”
As all ten skaters engaged in fisticuffs, staring goaltenders Jonathan Bernier and Ryan Miller chirped each other before squaring off.
Bernier’s dust-up over Miller was reminiscent of the infamous 1996 bout between the Leafs’ Felix Potvin and the Flyers’ Ron Hextall.
“I saw everybody on the ice, and I wanted to stand up for my teammates,” said Bernier, who made 25 saves for the victory. “Everyone stuck up for each other. It shows great character.”
The teams combined for 249 penalty minutes on the night; 127 of them assessed to the Leafs.
The brawl comes at a costly loss for Toronto as forward David Clarkson left the bench to join in the altercation. The infraction comes with an automatic 10-game suspension.
“Obviously we’re not proud or happy of what went on,” said Leafs coach Randy Carlyle after the game. “I think David Clarkson made a mistake, and now we pay for it.”
Meanwhile Miller had a few curt words for Clarkson. ""Probably not the brightest move by him."