I’m no lip reader, and perhaps the bilingual Martin Havlat was expressing himself in his native Czech tongue instead of his adopted NHL English, but judging by the replay (watch below) it appears that the San Jose Sharks winger blurts out a hearty “F— yeah!” and raises a single digit after scoring on Tuesday night.
Although the 30-year-old vet denied flipping the bird to the Los Angeles Kings fans at the Staples Center when asked by a Sharks beat reporter, and no news of supplementary discipline* from the NHL has surfaced, we’ll let you be the judge.
No fan of vulgarity here, but it is refreshing to see spirited rivalry in Southern California, and a Sharks player who looks like he actually cares whether this team falls out of the playoff hunt.
The Sharks and Kings are two of the six Western Conference teams embroiled in the anybody’s-game carousel for the third, seventh and eighth seeds in the playoffs. On Tuesday night the home-team Kings opened the scoring with a shorthanded goal by Mike Richards, and Havlat came storming back a scant 22 seconds later to even the score, silence the crowd, and put his team back in the game. Charging through the heart of the offensive zone and banging in his own rebound, no less.
It was a fantastic individual effort, and Havlat deserved to celebrate. The devil’s advocate might argue that he was claiming the10th-place Sharks as the new No. 1.
In addition to his goal, the winger added an assist in Tuesday’s 5-2 loss. This follows his two-point effort on Monday night against Anaheim, which followed his two-goal game (including the game-winner) against Detroit on Saturday. Three nights, six points.
Havlat’s long-awaited return from injury last week was overshadowed by another NHL forward’s long-awaited return from injury (Sidney Crosby) and news of another Western Conference scorer’s super-long-awaited return (Alexander Radulov). Since undergoing surgery to mend a partially torn hamstring tendon on Dec. 21, Havlat – who joined San Jose in an off-season trade that sent Dany Heatley to the Minnesota Wild – has watched a perennial playoff team tumble into desperation.
Without Havlat, the floundering Sharks had won one of their seven games in March. They are 2-2-0 since his return. Not great by any means, but better.
Havlat’s give-a-crap is precisely what the Sharks need more of. And if his passion comes with a side order of flippant defiance, so be it.
*The Boston Bruins’ Andrew Ference was dealt a maximum $2,500 fine for delivering an obscene gesture to the Montreal Canadiens fans during Game 4 of the 2011 Eastern Conference quaerterfinals despite his defence that his “glove got caught up.”