After a Bruin landed a heavy hit on a Predator, the circle center ice at the TD Banknorth Garden became a cruiserweight boxing ring during Tuesday's Bruins victory over the Nashville Predators.
The contenders: Boston defenseman Andrew Ference
and Nashville center Scot Nichol. Nichol lost the fight and the Bruins won the game, 3-1.
“It was a huge moment,” said Marco Sturm after the game. “It was a great hit and a great fight.
“It changed our game and certainly excited the fans.”
The fight was the spark the team needed, as Glen Metropolit put the B’s up 2-1 with a goal less than a minute later.
“I think we got back into the game a little bit [after the fight],” said Metropolit.
Although he appeared a little scratched up in the locker room, Ference himself was pleased with the outcome as well.
“It feels good,” he said after the game. “It was a good, clean hit, so that’s the most important thing.
“The boys get pretty fired up…so it’s nice to do something like that. Obviously the fans here like it; we got the Garden Meter going after it.”
The hit came after Ference laid an open-ice check on Predators right-winger Martin Erat, knowing retaliation would come.
“You kind of expect it,” he said. “Whenever there is a hard hit, you almost expect a fight because someone is going to stick up for their teammate.
“It’s almost becoming the status quo.”
While he was the one doling out the shots last night, Ference knows it could easily be the other way around.
“I don’t think anybody’s off-limits in the league,” he said. “There’s no halo on top of anybody’s head.
“If you play in the game, you have to expect to be treated fairly right across the board. We understand that’s…the game.”
The defenseman praised the Bruins physical style of play, which he thought often helped them win their games.
“Physical’s not necessarily killing guys. It’s getting to the puck first, protecting pucks, driving the net, and guys [being] willing to take a beating in front of the net,” he said.
“That’s what we consider physical.”
When the team stops playing that way, Ference said, it shows in their overall game.
“The second period was a good example of how we didn’t [play physically], just being second on the pucks and making some sloppy plays,” he said. “The big thing in the third period was the number of turnovers in between the blue lines.
“We made a lot of smarter plays just to get the puck into their zone and try to hold onto it a little bit longer.
“As soon as you [stop playing that way], you don’t have a chance at controlling the pace because then you get teammates stuck out there for a long time, you’re out on long shifts, and you’re just trying to keep your head above water.”
He also said that playing a truly team-oriented game is a big part of the B’s success.
“It’s a style of game where you don’t have to rely on a superstar to win you a game every night,” Ference said. “It’s not high risk, and I don’t think we’re the type of team who needs the flashy plays and the huge individual efforts to win games.
“It’s really winning by committing.”
But, he admitted, the hits are a big part of playing the game.
“It doesn’t have to be big hits like [the ones against the Predators], but just getting involved. Coming off the All-Star break…I think it’s extremely important that everyone just get a bump or try to get involved.
“Just to get back to game speed or game mindset, it’s tougher than it sounds,” he admitted. “You only have one practice…and you have to get back to competition level pretty quick.
“Hitting is a huge part of that, to get your mind in it, get your body going, and just feel like you’re part of the game.”
The physical aspects of the game are something every player can participate in.
“Everybody can’t make great stick handles and plays and stuff like that,” Ference said, “but the perfect way to get into the game and just get yourself going is to bump.
“And [the fights] are why some people like hockey.”