Starkey: Talbot 'wore the cape'
TribLIVE Sports Videos
Tell me a fight can change momentum in a hockey game, and I'll give you dozens of examples to the contrary.
I'll tell you it's not logical.
I would have told you, at first blush, that the Penguins erased a 3-0 deficit in Philadelphia on Saturday because Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are two of the best players in the world, not because Max Talbot got beaten up by some guy who'd scored four goals all season.
But that was before people who've played the game and coached it convinced me otherwise.
Not just a few people, mind you, and not just in comments for the record.
In fact, in speaking with players, coaches and management types at practice Monday, every one of them — some in private — told me that Talbot's fight with Daniel Carcillo was critical to the abrupt swing in momentum.
NBC analyst and former Penguins coach Eddie Olczyk called it while the fight was happening -- at 4:21 of the second period, 29 seconds after Daniel Briere had given Philly a 3-0 lead.
"I understand why Max Talbot is fighting," Olczyk said on the air, "but if you're Dan Carcillo, there's really no reason to engage. You have all the momentum. ... There's no reason to give the Penguins any opportunity to build momentum off of a scrap."
Olczyk continued: "I don't know what's going to come of it, but there's a time and a place. And to me, this is not the time for the Flyers."
Maybe it was just a coincidence that after Malkin's mad rush on the next shift, Ruslan Fedotenko — who was having a quiet series — went hard to the net and poked the puck from under Martin Biron's pad.
And yes, the Penguins still needed Mark Eaton to make like Mark Teixeira and bat a puck out of midair two minutes later to cut the Flyers' lead to 3-2.
But still ...
"For Max to put his body on the line like that, it got everybody off the bench," assistant coach Tom Fitzgerald said. "He fired me up. I know it meant a lot to his teammates. Some guys wear the cape different ways. For the coaching staff, I know Max had the cape for what he did."
I asked veteran winger Bill Guerin if he thought Talbot's tiff was the turning point.
"I know it was," Guerin said.
Did it change the team's energy?
"Not our energy as much as our attitude, like now we were going to do whatever it takes. Like we were ... "
A cornered animal?
"Yes," Guerin said, smiling.
Talbot manipulated the entire episode (except the part where he got punched a lot, and maybe that, too) by goading Carcillo.
"If I would have asked a guy like (Mike) Richards, or (Claude) Giroux or Briere, they probably wouldn't have fought," Talbot said, "so I went after a guy I knew would fight me."
What exactly, did Talbot say?
"I just said, 'You wanna fight?' He was like, 'Yeah• Yeah?' I was like, 'Yeah.' "
Talbot and others said players on the Flyers' bench were yelling at Carcillo to take the bait — and maybe that's the bigger story here.
Maybe, unwittingly, Talbot was asking the Flyers - at that precise moment - whether they were still the same old Flyers.
They answered with their fists instead of their brains.
That was a yes.
Rather than focus on protecting their 3-0 lead with the effective defensive style they had used in Game 5, the Flyers went Neanderthal.
They took the bait, because they are the Flyers.
Carcillo, who led the NHL in penalty minutes, raised his arms to the crowd on his way to the box. Defenseman Braydon Coburn blasted Fedotenko with a cheap shot after the subsequent goal. Sticks and gloves littered the ice.
The Flyers were officially distracted.
The Penguins were officially on their way to ending the series.
"I don't think we were playing terrible before (Talbot's fight)," Crosby said. "But there was something there that gave us a little more of a spark and motivated us, on that next shift, to respond."
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Penguins get physical, trade Goc for Blues’ Lapierre
- No cross-checking here: Penguins misspell ‘Sidney’
- Penguins notebook: Crosby understands NHL’s reasoning for ban
- Crosby banned from Jets game because he missed All-Star Game
- Rossi: Crosby’s debt to NHL paid in full
- Penguins’ Fleury surrenders 7 goals in 1 period of NHL All-Star Game loss
- Fleury’s relay team struggles in NHL skills competition
- Flyers’ Rinaldo suspended 8 games for hit on Letang
- Crosby, Malkin dazzle fellow All-Stars
- Penguins notebook: Letang’s status vs. Jets uncertain
- Letang produces 5 assists in return as Penguins defeat Jets, 5-3