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What We Learned: Matt Cooke gives NHL chance for big ban

Ryan Lambert
Puck Daddy

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Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend's events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.

So the NHL is for real about headshots, right?

Well now, thanks to Matt Cooke (who else!?), it has a hell of a chance to prove it.

Sunday, as you're all now aware, Cooke tried to surgically remove Ryan McDonagh's head with a brutal elbow for what feels like the lucky 100th dirty hit from the controversial winger. And now, no amount of loving spotlights from Sports Illustrated writers and HBO producers can do anything to protect him.

Suppose there's a list of reasons to suspend someone sitting on Colin Campbell's desk right now. Cooke has to hit just about every bullet point on there.

Cheapshot? Check.

Blindside? Check.

Targeting the head? Check. Double underlined.

Repeat offender? Check. Four checks, in fact.

Caused an injury? Oh, ooo. No. Hmm that's troubling.

In the past, and with the exception of the Trevor Gillies 10-gamer, the NHL has really only brought down serious suspensions on those players who do their opponents serious harm, probably as a punishment for getting a guy carted out on a stretcher to lead "SportsCenter."

The fact that McDonagh was fine after this hit is pretty much irrelevant to any argument you'd care to make for leniency. It's Matt Cooke, it's another dirty play, and there the discussion should end.

(Coming Up: Pavel Datsyuk trouble for Detroit; Brent Burns for Zach Parise; Ray Emery is unstoppable; Derek Roy is delusional; Jonathan Toews is Capt. Modest; an awesome NCAA goal; Rick Nash is incredible; Capitals goalie getting set; Joe Pavelski is unselfish; great goal by Luke Schenn; and the sexiest thing we've ever seen involving a catfish and a hockey rink.)

Pittsburgh has 10 games left, and he should be done for the season. At least. If the league really wants to send a message (not to him, since he clearly doesn't either "get it" or care, but to cheapshot pukes like him) he'll sit for multiple playoff games as well.

But let's say if he gets to play again this year by the NHL's standards, since we all know how iffy that whole situation always is. In that case, Mario Lemieux, the guy who wants to make teams accountable for the repeat offenders they employ and who wants to get plays that are "unacceptable and embarrassing to the sport" out of this garage league, should do it for them.

The Penguins organization should get out in front of this, and say that Cooke is done for the season, regardless of how deep they go in the playoffs. That's cleaning up your own house. (What Ray Shero should do is buy him out in the offseason but that, too, will never happen.)

And because we know Mario wouldn't suspend Cooke on his own anyway, this will give Danny Bylsma the chance to take the lead instead.

We've always heard that, when Cooke is on the right side of "the edge" he plays on, he can be very effective. But penalties like that elbow quite literally cost the Penguins the game. The Rangers scored twice on the ensuing five-minute major (helped immensely by Matt Niskanen's ill-advised high stick) and gift-wrapped two points for the Rangers.

If you're Bylsma, how do you let Cooke go on the ice again in a close game, particularly in the playoffs? The game was 1-1 when he elbowed McDonagh, and as effective as Cooke may be at his best, there's now clear evidence of the damage he'll do to his own team at his worst.

Somewhere in the chain of command here, someone has to take the initiative and say to Matt Cooke that "enough is enough." It doesn't matter who says it.

All that matters is he doesn't get one second of ice time the rest of the year. And that's a tap-in for anyone.

 

What We Learned

 

Anaheim Ducks: Ray Emery can't stop winning. Doesn't hurt that he played the Blues and Kings, sure, but wins are wins, and his stats sure do look nice. Cool. I like Ray Emery.

Atlanta Thrashers: Say you're fighting for a playoff spot and have a game against a team you're only four points in back of. A good way to help your cause is to not give up an 8-spot to them. I'm just sayin'.

Boston Bruins: Claude Julien of the Bruins' recent 1-for-7 stretch: "It has to start from here on in. We have to get some consistency." Well, they have consistency. They have been consistently terrible.

Buffalo Sabres: Derek Roy thinks he could be back in the Sabres lineup by May. Yeah, Derek, about that. I have some bad news… there's literally no way the Sabres are going to be playing then. How's October sound? Good? Good.

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Calgary Flames: After Sunday night's game with the Ducks, the Flames have eight games left. And given all the injuries on the roster, Brent Sutter has chosen now as the time to split up Alex Tanguay and Jar'ome Iginla. Well hey, see how that treats ya the rest of the way.

Carolina Hurricanes: Jamie McBain is back practicing with the team but won't be good to go for another two or three weeks. Just in time for the season to end.

Chicago Blackhawks: Now look, I don't expect Jonathan Toews to start pointing to himself like Rob Van Dam or anything, but buddy, you're literally carrying your team into the playoffs pretty much by yourself. You can take a LITTLE credit for it.

Colorado Avalanche: The Avalanche actually won on Saturday night (OK, OK, it was against the Oilers, sure). It was their first W since Feb. 22, almost a full month ago. They're now 2-18-2 in their last 22. Good season.

Columbus Blue Jackets: The Blue Jackets played Sunday with the bare minimum 18 skaters necessary to fill out an NHL roster. They didn't have time to call anyone up from the AHL before the game. That's got to be pleasant.

Dallas Stars: So should Stars fans be encouraged that they lost in a shootout to the best team in the East or discouraged that they couldn't get more out of the hadn't-beaten-a-playoff-team-in-a-month Flyers?

Detroit Red Wings: Pavel Datsyuk potentially out awhile? Yeah, that's about the worst possible news for the Red Wings.

Edmonton Oilers: This just in: Taylor Hall is pretty good. Now with math!

Florida Panthers: Here's a real nice deflection goal from Evgeny Dadonov, notable because this is his first game back after missing 20 with an injury.

 

Los Angeles Kings: This shirt was actually for sale at the Kings game on Friday night. My god.

Minnesota Wild: "Trade Brent Burns," writes occasional hockey columnist Jim Souhan. Insanity, you say? Well, he wants Zach Parise in return. Good luck with both those things.

Montreal Canadiens: Hal Gill played Sunday for the first time in a few games, but neither Tomas Plekanec nor Jeff Halpern will be back at least until the team returns from this brief road trip.

Nashville Predators: Apparently Nashville fans are now throwing fish on the ice. I hope that doesn't become a thing, because it's really stupid.

New Jersey Devils: Marty Brodeur on the Devs' Friday loss: "It's a setback. We were doing well." Problem is, one more setback and the season might be over. Sucks having to win 10 of 11 but maybe next time don't start out the season 0-184-3 or whatever MacLean did.

New York Islanders: Rick DiPietro came back and won his first start since Feb. 2. He even had a pretty decent night. Meanwhile, Al Montoya sat there wondering what he has to do to keep DiPietro from stealing his job.

New York Rangers: Don't look now but the Rangers have won four in a row and look fairly comfortable in their playoff position. What do you mean, "games in hand"?

Ottawa Senators: Ridiculous shortie by Ryan Shannon as part of the Senators' 3-2 comeback overtime win over the Lightning.

Philadelphia Flyers: The Flyers became the first team in the East to back into clinch a playoff spot. Hooray for them. Playing nothing but garbage teams for the past two weeks has really helped bring their game together.

Phoenix Coyotes: Sunday night was Adrian Aucoin's 1,000th NHL game. He's the 11th player to reach that milestone this season alone.

Pittsburgh Penguins: "Penguins players approve of a committee to study head hits." Maybe that group will send a CSI team to scrape Matt Cooke's elbow for samples of Marc Savard and Ryan McDonagh's brain matter.

San Jose Sharks: Joe Pavelski thought he had a hat trick. Turns out the official scorers, after originally awarding the third goal to Patrick Marleau then giving it to Pavelski, changed their minds again and gave it back to Patty.

St. Louis Blues: Hey, speaking of that Sharks game, the Blues entered it on a roll and had their chance to win their first back-to-back road games since November. They obviously did not do that. Because they are the Blues.

Tampa Bay Lightning: Vinny Lecavalier is playing better this year because he's not stressed about getting traded. Also, he has a newfound hobby of taking all his stress out on PK Subban's legs.

Toronto Maple Leafs: What an end-to-end rush by Luke Schenn in Toronto's demolition of the Bruins.

Vancouver Canucks: The Canucks seem awful torn up about the Manny Malhotra eye injury and they should be. It's horrible when something like that happens.

Washington Capitals: So Braden Holtby got sent down to Hershey, so it's time for Michal Neuvirth and Semyon Varlamov to carry the water.

Gold Star Award

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Rick Nash pretty much single-handedly beat the Wild on Saturday afternoon. Two goals, two assists. Broke the 30-goal barrier again. That's four years in a row, and his sixth in eight seasons as a pro.

Minus of the Weekend

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Durrrrrrr.

Play of the Weekend

Sorry for the poor quality but check out this ridiculous goal from Friday afternoon from Boston College's Steve Whitney. That's all skill right there.

Perfect HFBoards trade proposal of the week

User "coo1beans" may or may not be a Canucks fan:

To Van: Parise, 2012 2nd rounder

To NJ: Schneider, Hodgson, 2012 1st rounder

Signoff

But I'm sure you high-tech NASA people could care less about our resort-town ways.

Ryan Lambert publishes hockey awesomeness rather infrequently over at The Two-Line Pass. Check it out, why don't you? Or you can email him here and follow him on Twitter if you so desire.

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