March 18, 2010
The Boston Bruins will meet the Pittsburgh Penguins for the first time since Cooke drilled Savard in the noggin on a non-penalized hit, both in the game and by the NHL. Savard's concussion jeopardized the Bruins' playoff chances; reignited the blindside hit debate to the point where emergency legislation may be passed; and, most of all, infected some Bostonians with a bloodlust that will only subside with the frozen frontier justice of the hockey Code.
How will the Bruins enact revenge on Matt Cooke? According to a couple of Boston media loyalists, going after the perpetrator won't send a message. But taking out the Pittsburgh Penguins captain would.
So wrote Ron Borges of the Boston Herald in today's edition (via Kukla), who argues that Cooke won't give the Bruins satisfaction so they'll need to squeeze it out of Sidney Crosby's(notes) veins:
To take the traditional hockey fight route would be silly because:
a) He probably won't fight back, that not being his modus operandi.
b) Why get your own guys in hot water with Campbell sitting upstairs taking notes?
c) It's been 11 days since the original incident, which should have been taken care of at the time by Savard's teammates and wasn't - so it's a bit late for Machismo on Ice.
What the Bruins should do instead is play their most physical game of the year. Contest every loose puck. Take Sidney Crosby down every chance they get. He, not Cooke, is the Penguins' heart and soul. Make him bleed for the sins of his teammate. Take him 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.
The Pensblog has its NSFW response to Borges's call for revenge, pointing out that the Bruins aren't exactly the vengeful sort.
Borges is not alone, either. NESN announcer Jack Edwards -- always a model of measured response and pacifism -- gave an emotional interview on March 8 in which he argued twice for Crosby to be the target in the rematch (via Goro87):
"I would have liked to have seen some retribution not to be [against] Matt Cooke, [but] on Crosby or on Malkin on the very next shift. But I'm afraid the Bruins feel they're more gentlemanly than that, and it's not a very gentlemanly world created by the NHL."
[After the Savard hit] "If you want to get somebody's attention, you've got to take nine teeth out of Crosby's face. You've got to take him out."
[When asked about revenge tonight] "Not on Cooke; I would do it on Crosby. ..."
The interview is here:
This is all expected, and it's not even a fresh idea: Please recall Don Brennan's arguments for the crippling of Crosby in the 2008 Stanley Cup playoffs, as the Ottawa Sun columnist endorsed going after Sid's mended ankle.
Edwards also said that "if you retaliate, you're going to be sent down the river for your frickin' life." Which is what the Bruins go into this game knowing, as Colin Campbell will be in the stands and two of the NHL's most veteran referees in Bill McCreary and Stephen Walkom will be on the ice.
This game is going to be in lockdown mode, and if there's any sort of retribution that goes beyond Cooke getting roughed up a bit, it's going to mean swift and harsh justice from the League. It's what the NHL does: After one black-eye -- an injury, a bench-clearing brawl -- it subtly pressures those involved to not give the League another one. See: Sabres vs. Senators after their massive brawl.
So as much as Edwards and Borges would like to see it, don't expect much in the way of revenge in Boston. Although Sea Bass seems to indicate it could still come, via the Boston Globe:
Cooke should be in Pittsburgh's lineup tonight, and undoubtedly will understand that Savard's teammates, with the full approval of the Bruins faithful, will be looking to address the issue.
"We play Pittsburgh again?'' vice president Cam Neely asked with a laugh. "I'm not going to get into what our fans expect. But part of what this game is all about is taking responsibility for the actions that we do. Sometimes, as much as the league wants to get it right, it's difficult to get it right.''
If you think the intensity of coverage on this sort of thing is overwhelming now, imagine if blogs, social media and YouTube had been around in Neely's prime. Scary.
UPDATE: Check out an interesting column by Ritch Duncan that argues for Crosby dropping the gloves himself to defuse the situation.