Puck Daddy - NHL

As we said yesterday evening: The result of Game 1 between the Carolina Hurricanes and the Pittsburgh Penguins was rather inconsequential when you consider the Canes' penchant for starting off with a dud in the 2009 playoffs. What can either team take from the Penguins' 3-2 win when they both know the "Cardiac Canes" have had more comebacks than Evander Holyfield?

Well, here's what Carolina takes away from Game 1: frustration and a little anger. Frustration over a goal that was kept off the board on an interference call; a little anger over injuries to Tuomo Ruutu(notes) and Erik Cole(notes) that only the bizarre gap between Games 1 and 2 make less distressing.

Coming up, a look at both plays. And after you view the evidence, please to be passing your verdict:

1. Pass or Fail: Erik Cole's interference penalty that negated a Carolina goal was legit.

2. Pass or Fail: Matt Cooke's(notes) knee-on-knee hit on Cole deserves supplemental discipline from the NHL.

First on the interference call at 15:13 of the second period on Cole, who made contact with Hal Gill(notes) that sent the defenseman barreling into Marc-Andre Fleury(notes) to negate (and, let's face it, allow for) a Chad LaRose(notes) goal that would have tied the game. The play in question:

Looked like a case of lost balance, right? Well, as we mentioned in Three Stars, Michael Farber of Sports Illustrated made the following observation: "Either Cole clearly doesn't know his own strength or Gill is a remarkably delicate flower for a man who stands 6'7" and weighs almost as much as the legal briefs in the Phoenix Coyotes bankruptcy case."

Is Farber indicating that Gill intentionally fell into his goalie?

Cole later was part of another controversial play in which Penguins winger Matt Cooke collided with him knee-on-knee in the slot:

From Canes Now:

Asked if he thought it was a knee-on-knee hit, with the implication that it was an illegal one, a curt [Carolina Coach Paul] Maurice said, "Yes, I did. I felt that was, yeah."

Cole officially has a "lower body" injury, but he clearly hurt his left knee in the collision. Cooke said the contact was accidental.

"He was cutting across the middle," Cooke said. "I turned sideways to hit him, and he turned the other way. I almost fell over, too."

The venerable Pensblog took note of Cooke's hit, writing in its epic recap: "Cooke could face the NHL for the hit on Erik Cole. We don't care.  Just another thing for Cole for complain about." Funny 'cause it's true.

Red & Black Hockey, a Carolina blog, saw the play thusly:

About ten minutes into the third, Erik Cole was skating through the slot and was run into by Pittsburgh's Matt Cooke.  It most surely wasn't Cooke's intent to injure Cole, but he did lead with his left knee, crashing into Cole's left knee.  No penalty was called on the play, but play was halted as Cole lay in a heap in front of Fleury's net.  Cole slowly skated his way to the bench, but he never returned to the ice.  As of this moment, there's no word about the extent of his injury, but it's obvious that it's his knee. 

Canes Country, meanwhile, draws the obvious parallel to another incident for Pittsburgh this postseason:

Remember the outcry when Alex Ovechkin went knee to knee with Sergei Gonchar(notes) We will see what is said about Matt Cooke's hit on Erik Cole.  

Here's the Alexander Ovechkin(notes) check on Gonchar from the conference semifinals (video). If nothing else, the Cooke is a reminder why the outcry over Ovechkin's non-suspended knee-on-knee hit was so ludicrous: Either you're going to accept that these things happen on an incidental basis during a game played at (literally) break-neck speed, or you're going to severely penalize any player that "recklessly" uses his body and ends up injuring an opponent.

The bottom line is that if you're a Penguins fan who thought Ovechkin should have been suspended, then you should be a Penguins fan who thinks Cooke should be suspended.

To reset the questions at hand:

1. Pass or Fail: Erik Cole's interference penalty that negated a Carolina goal was legit.

2. Pass or Fail: Matt Cooke's knee-on-knee hit on Cole deserves supplemental discipline from the NHL.

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