The fact that the team the Sharks allowed to escape from the stranglehold of a 3-0 series deficit now sits one win away from the Stanley Cup is bad enough but here's some salt to apply to that wound: Logan Couture sustained a hand injury in a fight with Mike Richards at the end of Game 6 against Los Angeles. Fortunately the team announced today that Couture underwent successful surgery and should be ready for the start of training camp. Good. That doesn't make the fact that one of the Sharks' most important players seriously injured himself in a pointless fight with the Kings' fourth-line center after the result of Game 6 had already been decided any less infuriatingly stupid. Here's the fight first of all, which occurred off the center-ice faceoff following an Anze Kopitar goal that made it 4-1 and effectively forced a Game 7:
There was absolutely no reason whatsoever for that fight to happen. None. Unless you count the amorphous concepts of "firing a team up" or "sending a message" that the fight also clearly, in retrospect, failed to accomplish. I don't even blame Couture as much as I do the stupidity of hockey culture that dictates players "step up" and "show leadership" with a meaningless gesture like this after falling behind on the scoreboard. It was stupid when Joe Thornton did it off the opening faceoff of Game 6 against the Ducks in 2009 but at least Ryan Getzlaf was a star player so the significance of an injury risk went both ways. It's 2014 and Mike Richards fucking stinks. The Sharks had nothing to gain and everything to lose from that fight and they ended up losing everything. A team that was already down its No. 1 defenseman had to play Game 7 with Couture nursing a significant hand injury. It's hard to say how much that injury affected him, although he did go 32% on the draw, and I certainly wouldn't pin the Game 7 loss on it. But it was an easily avoidable obstacle placed in front of a team surrounded by them.
Again I don't really blame Couture for this as much as I do the weird mythology that, when the chips are down for a team in the playoffs, a star player needs to send a message by dropping the gloves. You know what sends a message? Eliminating a team from playoff contention by winning the game. That's harder to do when you only have one functional hand.