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Colorado Avalanche

Avs win and keep streak alive, but the bigger win was response to MacKinnon injury



David Zalubowski/AP

Almost all of this column was written when the Boston Bruins had a 3-1 lead late in the game. But I’m keeping it untouched- as the larger points remain. I DaterJinxed my own column. You’re welcome.

I don’t care if the replays showed that, yes, technically, the Taylor Hall hit on Nathan MacKinnon wasn’t as dirty as it first appeared. I don’t care that, yes, the main reason MacKinnon almost certainly suffered a broken nose and had his blood spilled all over the Ball Arena ice is because Hall hit MacKinnon’s stick into his face.

I saw a guy cutting across the ice, going out of his way, in an attempt to hit the Avalanche’s best player from the side. I saw the Avalanche’s best player go down in a heap, injured, blood everywhere.

I don’t care that the Avs and their 16-game home winning streak came to an end in a loss to the Bruins. What I wanted to see, and what I did see, was an Avs team that stood up for MacKinnon and fought back, literally, against the Bruins. I think that will make them a closer team in the long run, and that’s the big positive to take from this game.

The Avs had to respond to that, and they did. OK, so the Bruins might have won a hockey game in January because of some of that response. Big deal. The Avs are still a better team than the Bruins, and they gained something more valuable tonight than two points in the middle of the season. They gained, I’ll be willing to bet, the more valuable commodity of closer camaraderie as a group. I think this has been something the Avs lacked too much in the last few years. The Avs always talked about sticking up for each other, but too often seemed to back down from opposing physical intimidation. This team doesn’t take as much (bleep) as it used to.

A lot of people, especially in the media today, seem to want hockey to turn into a pacifistic game, where any kind of fisticuffs are just bad, bad, bad for the game, for society, for all of humanity. I’m not going to get into another tired argument about fighting in hockey. I don’t like staged fighting, never did really, and think it’s a good thing that is mostly all gone from the game. I also agree that fighting is inherently a risky, potentially dangerous thing and I don’t like seeing people get hurt.

But it’s still a game of fierce emotion, and pride and standing up for the guy next to you. It’s a physical game played by big, strong men on skates going 20-25 MPH and stuff is going to happen. I know, I know, I can see some eyes rolling here over that belief.

Oh, Dater, you’re a hopeless neanderthal, a Don Cherry clone on the keyboard.

If that’s your opinion, that’s fine. We can agree to disagree and still be civil about it. I think the Avs are taking some of the same kinds of steps that the old Detroit Red Wings did starting on…sorry to bring this up Avs fan…March 26, 1997. The Wings were parodied as a skilled but soft team, “pretty not gritty.” That night against the Avs started to change all that.

This obviously wasn’t March 26, 1997, all over again. But, like that night, there was still plenty of blood on the ice. This time, the Avs were the team that got all pissed off and fought back.

It might not have shown up on the scoreboard tonight, but I think the benefits of doing so will show up later in the season.

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