It was the Florida Panthers’ Mike Duco, making his second appearance in an NHL sweater, who took leave of his senses and attacked the Caps’ Alexandre Giroux in the third period Thursday night. For his labor Duco earned 27 minutes of penalties: 2 for instigating, 5 for fighting, 10 more for misconduct, and 10 after that as an aggressor. His Panthers team entered play Thursday night well fatigued from a 6-5 overtime victory over Colorado back in Sunrise Wednesday, so Duco thought it a swell idea to attack, get banished, and have a teammate sit in the penalty box for an extended period, furthering diminishing the Panther bench.
So who is Mike Duco? He’s a 22-year-old center who earned 173 PIMs in his final season of junior with Kitchener. He never got drafted by an NHL club. (Good scouting, that.) Last season with Rochester he piled on 147 PIMs. What’s he doing skating with the Panthers? Well, Panther’s coach Peter DeBoer coached Duco in Kitchener, and the Panthers had lost five straight prior to Wednesday night’s victory, so I guess DeBoer wanted a some spark in his lineup. Spark? On Thursday night, Duco was a combustion engine backfire.
What did Giroux do to draw Duco’s ire? He very cleanly checked Dmitry Kulikov into the boards, that’s what. So Duco went Isleworth Swedish nanny on our winger.
In the victor’s locker room Giroux was asked about the leadup to the attack. Had there been words exchanged? Did he imagine that his hit on Kulikov could have been interpreted as dirty?
“I thought it was a clean hit,” Giroux said.
And any history of antagonism between you two?
“I don’t even know who he is,” he added.
The Capitals were comfortably ahead 4-0 at the time of Duco’s dimwittedness, but two power play goals during nearly seven minutes of extra man time blew it wide open, and perhaps more importantly, made an improved Panthers team this season look on Thursday night like a bush-league outfit.
Bruce Boudreau minced no words in condemning Duco’s idiocy.
“To attack Alex . . . Almost what the game’s come to is, you get a good hit, and not a hard hit, and you take exception to a hit.
“Hockey used to be, you hit a guy hard and that’s what it’s all about. Now you hit a guy hard and you think you have to retaliate on that. It’s stupid. It was a dumb thing. And [Duco] took their team totally out of a chance to win the game.”
It was a moment of madness that did much to overshadow Alexander Semin’s conspicuous return to the Capitals’ lineup: the game’s first star put up two goals and two assists, his first tally a staple Semin wicked wrister that seemed to suggest he was functioning with a rather well healed shooting hand. The Capitals will play one more game — Saturday, in Philly — with a depleted lineup, but come Monday in Tampa there could be names like Ovechkin, Poti, and Morrisonn back wearing red, white, and blue sweaters, with Mike Knuble following just days later.
There was a road-wreck novelty to Mike Duco’s actions Thursday night, but I’m uncomfortable devoting an entire file to his lunacy, and thereby showcasing exclusively hockey’s underbelly, so I’ll share a few uplifting words related to a smart hockey player, Mathieu Perreault. I thought Perreault had a tremendous third period Thursday night.
My OFB colleague Gary snapped some stupendous images from his visit to Montreal last Saturday night, a Capitals’ 4-3 shootout triumph, and a handful of them well captured Perreault in his first game as an NHLer back in his home province. It’s an amazing camera that Gary has, and we’re going to deploy it as often as possible in 2010. Anyway, I suggested to Gary that he transfer the images of no. 85 onto a disc, and bring it to me during Thursday’s game, whereupon I’d pass it along to Perreault in the postgame locker room.
I waited a while while the young center received postgame treatment, and when he emerged from the trainer’s room he smiled when he recognized his frequent interviewer. But I only asked him one question: how many of his family and friends he was able to pack into Bell Centre last Saturday night (turns out the Habs were only able to come up with 10 tickets for him, thereby stranding seven of Matty’s friends . . . who later scalped their way into the building). Then I handed him the disc and explained that I thought he’d appreciate nearly two dozen high resolution images of his first NHL game in Montreal. My hope is that enjoys a few of them enough to pass them along to his family and friends who shared that special experience last weekend.
It’s a moment like that one that reminds me how miraculous the coverage parameters of new media now are for hockey, relative to the pen and pad days of just a few years ago.