The Rangers seemingly refuse to go on any sort of losing streak this season, bouncing back with a 4-1 win against the Panthers tonight. But we had a story within the main story tonight, as Panthers forward Tomas Kopecky decided to let out some frustration in the form of a sucker punch on Rangers’ defenseman Michael Del Zotto at the end of the game. The Rangers all took exception to this and went after Kopecky, but it was Mike Rupp who became the hero and retaliated as best as anyone could have.
Let’s talk about Del Zotto and Kopecky first. Del Zotto and Kopecky were battling for position in the slot; something that happens numerous times every game. It got very physical and both players exchanged a few pushes. Again, this is not uncommon in hockey. Del Zotto then, still battling for position, gave Kopecky a crosscheck up high. Del Zotto deserved a two minute cross-checking penalty for the action but it was not at all out of line. I would have had no problem if Kopecky gave Del Zotto a slash in return or put a glove in his face. That also is a part of hockey. But Kopecky, clearly frustrated by his team’s performance, went beyond the boundaries and sucker-punched Del Zotto, who was totally oblivious to the fist headed his way.
As for Rupp, this is exactly why he is here. There are 12 forwards in the lineup and not every one is going to be a great offensive player. Rupp provides a good physical game, but what also makes him a welcomed addition to the roster is his attitude. The guy is 100% a team player and will not, for a lack of better phrasing, take shit from anyone. I do not care if it was an instigator. I do not care how much bigger Rupp is than Kopecky. It was Kopecky’s own stupidity that got him into that situation, and if he is going to pull off a move like that then he sure as hell better at least answer for it and not collapse into the fetal position when Rupp challenges him.
If Sean Avery had pulled off something like this then Gary Bettman would try him in court for attempted murder and demand he take anger management classes again. Let’s see if the league actually holds Kopecky accountable.