Jacob Trouba hits raw nerve with some Rangers opponents
GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Someone joked with Rangers captain Jacob Trouba on Tuesday that, after fighting twice in Monday’s 5-4 overtime win over the Calgary Flames at Madison Square Garden, he might have taken a “maintenance day’’ and skipped practice to rest his sore knuckles.
“No,’’ Trouba said with a grin. “No maintenance days. It’s only one game, man. We just had [eight] maintenance days.’’
The Rangers did have eight days between games, due to the NHL’s bye week and All-Star break. And that long layoff was something both Trouba and Rangers coach Gerard Gallant suggested may have had something to do with why Monday’s game was so physical, with big hits landed by Trouba and Sammy Blais leading to three fights in the game.
“It happens once in a while, in spurts like that,’’ Gallant said of the physicality on Monday. “Maybe, like I said, they were a little cranky that the All-Star break wasn't long enough. Who knows? But it’s just the way it happened [Monday] night. I don't think you'll see that in our team a lot.’’
Trouba made himself a target by dropping Calgary forward Dillon Dube with a heavy hit along the Flames’ blue line in the first period. That prompted Dube’s teammate Chris Tanev to beeline to Trouba and fight him. Later in the period, Blais dumped Calgary’s Milan Lucic at center ice, which led to Nikita Zadorov attacking Blais and MacKenzie Weegar fighting Rangers rookie forward Will Cuylle.
In the second period, Trouba blasted Nazem Kadri to the ice and separated him from his helmet, and Dube jumped in to fight Trouba.
All three of the hits that precipitated the fights were deemed clean by the officials and in each case Calgary got an additional penalty for starting the fight. The Rangers capitalized on the instigator penalty to Dube, when Mika Zibanejad scored on the ensuing power play to give the Rangers a 3-2 lead.
Gallant bemoaned the tendency these days for teams to want to fight after a hard, clean hit.
“For Troubs, he knows he knows how to hit, it's a big part of his game, and he takes advantage at the right time,’’ Gallant said. “And sometimes it changes momentum of hockey games, and that's the way it is. But it's not like he plans it before the game, with coaches, saying, 'We’ve got to make sure we finish this guy real hard.' It's just part of the game, and when it happens… it seems like every time you hit somebody, you’ve got to have a fight.’’
Trouba was ready to go both times Monday, and in the case of Dube, he dropped him to the ice with a flurry of punches.
“You don't want to not be ready,’’ Trouba said of fighting after a big hit. “I don't think I feel forced into [fighting]. I don't have to, I know that. But I don't have an issue with it.’’
Trouba, who leads the Rangers in fights this season (five), and hits (153) has said on more than one occasion that playing physically, and hitting people, is an important part of his game.
“It's part of the game, part of how I've always played,’’ he said. “I think it has an impact on the game. I think if it lifts the team, it lifts the team. If not, it's just your presence on the ice, [telling the opponent] that you can’t go wherever you want, I guess… I don't want to go looking for it. If it comes to me, presents itself, make the hit. And make it clean.’’
He has gotten a reputation around the league for delivering vicious hits that some believe are borderline dirty. But he said no one has complained to him about his physicality.
“Not to me,’’ he said. “I don't think there's much you can really complain about.’’