It was the ugliest scene of the decade for the National Hockey League, and everyone remembers it, including Matt Cooke.
After a questionable hit on Markus Naslund by Avalanche forward Steve Moore, a hit that forced the Canucks top-line center out of the line-up, went unsuspended, Todd Bertuzzi decided to take things into his own hands on March 8th, 2004 with his version of frontier justice. Sucker-punching Moore and driving his head down in the ice, Bertuzzi received a 20-game suspension along with a reputation-shattering image cast upon his name while Moore would never be the same, failing to suit for another NHL club after the incident.
Now, six years later, the league has put themselves in an eerily similar situation with their non-suspension of Cooke, who visits Boston for the first time on Thursday night since taking Bruins top-line center Marc Savard out of commission for the season with a devastating head-shot.
It was a trying year for Savard, who had already battled foot and knee injuries, limiting him to just 41 games on the season. Despite his injuries, Savard was still having a year up to #91-standards with 33 points, 17 of which coming on the man-advantage. The thought process among Bruins fans was that with a healthy Savard, the B’s depth at center would come in handy as the team made the playoff’s as a bottom-seed. Now, as Savard sits at home, unable to even return to the ice to skate, the B’s chances for a Cup run are even more damaged and nearly three weeks since the incident, B’s fans haven’t forgiven Cooke and probably never will.
Dubbed a call for “vigilante justice” thanks to Colin Campbell’s inaction in terms of punishment towards Cooke, a repeat offender, the screams of Bruins fans calling for the head of the Penguins-grinder which can be heard from atop the Zakim Bridge, are not only justified, but seemingly encouraged by members of the media for Pittsburgh’s final regular-season trip to Boston.
However, there seems to be a new call out there–a call for the Bruins to take out Penguins captain and NHL’s leading goal scorer Sidney Crosby.
As Ron Borges of the Boston Herald puts it:
Take him [Crosby] into the boards. Knock him down every chance you get. Bounce a puck off his nose if you can. If you get a blind side shot at him, put your body through his chest.
Borges cites Crosby as the heart of the Penguins, and writes that a hard physical game against he or Evgeni Malkin would matter more than an attack against Cooke, who is by all means a bottom six-forward trying to make a name for himself as a cheap-shot specialist. While a great point in terms of analyzing just what Matt Cooke is at the root of this Boston-media witch-hunt for proper justice, the idea of taking Crosby out is dangerous, and if you ask me, just plain wrong.
What does taking the NHL’s best player out accomplish if you’re the Boston Bruins?
You’d prove you’re no better than Cooke and the Penguins. As cliche as that sounds, what justice should/would the Bruins feel knowing that they just committed the same act (or one of a greater magnitude in terms of who’s more important to their team) that they were crying for a suspension against? Maybe I’m in the minority on this one, and it’s entirely likely, but with the B’s clinging on for their playoff lives, the concept of sacrificing two points for a desire to make another team feel your pain is downright stupid.
In this case, the counterargument of the ‘best revenge would be beating the Penguins’ actually has some validity.
Currently, the Penguins sit second in the Eastern Conference while the B’s are the eighth seed if the season was to end today. With a crucial two games in hand and three point gap between themselves and the Canadiens who sit in the sixth seed, the ideal scenario for Boston is getting the two points and a victory of the team they could find themselves going up against in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.
Historically playing the Penguins well and sitting at 1-1-1 against Pittsburgh this season, an intense physical contest where Boston comes out victorious despite being shorthanded without Savard may bring back shades of 2007-08, where the grit and heart of the B’s was a driving force in their late season playoff-push, finishing as the eighth seed. Notably, the big moment for that club came when the Boston Bruins took the Canadiens, who had taken all seven contests prior, to the shootout and despite losing, showed their much more skilled and talented opponent that they could in fact hang with them for 60 minutes.
For Boston, who’s to say you can’t have it both ways? If you’re the Boston Bruins, there’s only one player you need to make pay–Matt Cooke. He’s the one who injured Savard, not Crosby. The NHL let it get to this point, and with Colin Campbell expected to be in attendance for the contest, the B’s need to send a message to Cooke, 29 NHL clubs, Campbell and their concerned fanbase.
The message? The bear has awoken.
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About the Author: Ty Anderson ran the Chronicles From The Garden blogspot account during the 2008-09 NHL season before joining HockeyIndependent as the Bruins Blogger. He is a Seinfeld enthusiast, self-admitted Star Wars nerd, Vezina-quality street-hockey goaltender, and can be found in Balcony 314 of every Bruins home game. Follow him and his tweeting madness on Twitter at http://Twitter.com/_TyAnderson or send him an e-mail at TAndersonBruins@gmail.com.