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Bruins seeking payback could be nightmare for NHL

Mar 18, 2010, 10:20 AM EDT

Bruins.jpgTonight’s game between the Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh
Penguins will be a defining moment in the history of the NHL. With Matt
Cooke facing absolutely zero punishment for his blind-side hit on Marc
Savard that left the Boston forward out for the season with a
concussion, the Bruins could be out for blood as they seek retribution.

There’s no doubt that Matt Cooke will be a targeted man. The Bruins
will be looking to make him pay each time he touches the puck. But it’s
not just Cooke that is in danger; the Penguins’ top players have big
targets on their backs as well. Says P.J. Stock, former Boston Bruins
tough guys (courtesy
of NECN.com
):

“It’s so easy to just go after the other team’s tough guy . . . and
think the score is settled. It’s not, though. The Bruins are missing
one of their star players. They now have to talk to [Evgeni] Malkin . .
. They have to talk to Crosby. They have to get in the head of
[Sergei] Gonchar. They have to try to make those guys feel somewhat
uneasy.

“The last thing I’d ever want to do is tell someone to
invoke some sort of physical treatment to Crosby. But, unfortunately,
the way the game’s going, if [the NHL is] not going to fix any of this,
the only way to make a guy who was running around feel a little bad
about himself is to [threaten to] hurt one of his team’s star players. I
wouldn’t do anything to Crosby, but in the warmup I’d let Crosby
[know] that we’re coming for him. And then when Matt gets out there, I
think Matt [has to] own up. And I wouldn’t be surprised if Matt Cooke
fought in his first or second shift. He’s a tough kid, and he can hold
his own.”

Stock also mentions that the instigator rule originally prevented the
Bruins from instantly retaliating and making Cooke pay in the original
game. He also doesn’t seem to be actively promoting the targeting of the
Penguins’ top players, but if it’s his mind you know it’s in the heads
of the Boston players as well.

This is exactly what the NHL is
hoping to avoid. Colin Campbell is actually going to be in attendance at
tonight’s game, as the league hopes his presence will help maintain
some measure of order and discipline. The last time this sort of game
was played, where a team seemed to be ready for violent retribution,
Steve Moore was left with a broken neck and hockey has been trying to
recover ever since.

The Vancouver Canucks – Colorado Avalanche
game of March 8, 2004 — in which season-long suspensions, criminal
charges and life-long injuries were the result of payback — would
hopefully be the motivation for both teams to at least contain
themselves for outright headhunting.

This is also the absolute
worst scenario the NHL could have faced, just weeks after the Olympics.
Says Roy MacGregor of the Globe and Mail:

Hockey came out of the Vancouver Winter Games with a golden glow – not
just in the medals won by the Canadian men and women, but in the
surprising show by the Americans (silver in men’s and women’s hockey)
and the astonishing skill level showed by all players in a tournament in
which there had not been a single fight.

That glow lasted about as long as a firefly’s thanks to Cooke’s vicious
hit on an unsuspecting Savard and the now-familiar image of a stretcher
being pulled out onto the ice through the Zamboni doors.

The best thing that can happen from this game is the Boston Bruins
somehow manage to keep their heads, and get payback on the Penguins not
by taking out their top players with illegal or dangerous hits but by
getting some much-needed points with a big win.

I’m not saying the Bruins should not be looking for payback at all.
In fact, I fully expect a fight with Matt Cooke in most likely in his
first shift. The Bruins should also make it clear they are not exactly
happy with the situation, but with clean and hard hits that don’t leave a
question as to whether they were illegal or not. And as much as this
could be an ‘eye for an eye’ game, going out to injure another player
just to get retribution for Savard.

The NHL is facing a seminal moment this season, and it’s unfortunate
we’ve come to this. Yet the absolute worst thing that can happen tonight
is for the Bruins to try and clearly take out or hurt any of the
Penguins players. I understand that i the past this might have been
fine, and that hockey is a sport where payback is possible — and
expected — if the NHL fails to do what is right. Yet for a sport that
is already teetering on the precipice of a PR nightmare, there is fine
line that is going to be walked tonight.

There is a way for the Boston Bruins to get their retribution, but
that’s not with dangerous or openly vicious hits. Beat them on the
scoreboard, show Matt Cooke his hit will not go unpunished. But do not
cross that line.

  1. FT - Mar 18, 2010 at 11:13 AM

    Since hits to the head such as the one on Savard are not illegal, and NHL will stay consistent, the Bruins need to hit Crosby in the same fashion.
    Cooke didn’t get suspended, so the Bruins player won’t be either. They took out your best player, you take out their’s. Its only fair.
    Simply fighting Cooke or winning the game isn’t equal to what happened to Savard. The Bruins have lost a lot of respect already, time to get it back.

  2. Rob Selby - Mar 18, 2010 at 12:05 PM

    Boston is full of scumbags. But, the Bruins suck anyway. With or without Savard.
    If the Bruins take out Crosby. The Pens should take out Ovechkin, if they meet again.

  3. walt - Mar 18, 2010 at 12:13 PM

    Rob, what does Bruins/Crosby have to do with Ovechkin? You do realize he plays for the Caps, don’t you?

  4. Rob Selby - Mar 18, 2010 at 12:27 PM

    Of course, I know what team OV plays for. I say, if the Pens lose Crosby because of some payback he had nothing to do with, the Pens should take out Ovechin just for the Hell of it. He’s a dirty player anyway and it will completely destroy the NHL if the 2 best players in the league are eliminated. The NHL will deserve it.
    If you don’t like it, tough luck.

  5. Aquaman - Mar 18, 2010 at 1:10 PM

    It’s idiots like you who make reading comments in this blog so painful.

  6. northernwolf - Mar 18, 2010 at 1:44 PM

    Totally agree with Aquaman. Selby must be a Canadians fan, only they would be so ignorant in their comments about the NHL. What a jackass.

  7. Fecteau - Mar 18, 2010 at 2:13 PM

    I agree with a few people here. I think anyone who watches hockey for the violence aspect isn’t truly a fan. I can admit that now and again its cool to see a fight; Talk about having your cake and eat it too! But at the same time, there’s so much more to hockey than fighting; goals, saves, different hits and checks, turnovers,penalties and penalty shots, all this stuff is so great that they could take fighting out completely (if at all possible) and the integrity of the sport would be improved while you won’t lose the die hard fans.
    Also, in response to Rob Selby, I am completely against going after anyone, as much as I dislike the Penguins, they deserve a chance and people need to learn to play fair, as cream always rises to the top. I wouldn’t go after Crosby, that is of course unless he put me in a position taht I had to knock him down a peg.
    That being said, Go ahead and have one of your many goons on the Penguins take out Ovechkin! In the 9 games Ovi’s missed due to suspension or injury this year, the Caps have scored 7 goals in each of 3 of those 9 games, and are averaging like 5 goals per game. Even their goaltending is better without Ovi in the lineup… Go ahead, you’ll just make the team that much more dangerous!
    Oh, and northernwolf, I disagree that Selby’s a Canadian’s fan. He would most likely be speaking in French and I would probably smell him from all the way in Richmond, VA. If I’m wrong, I’m giving 1-1 odds that he’s a terrible tipper! Tab-al-naque!!!

  8. demon - Mar 18, 2010 at 4:37 PM

    Hey Selby,
    Any goon could injure Ovechkin with a blatantly illegal hit or slash, but if you stick to the rules, he’s not so easy to “take out just for the hell of it”. In case you haven’t noticed, he’s one of the strongest players in the NHL, he sees the ice, keeps his head up and usually gives considerably more than he gets. Ask Jagr about that. But keep dreaming…

  9. Brad - Mar 18, 2010 at 8:23 PM

    NHL leadership have lost their way, and should be replaced by those who can and will maintain the integrity of the game. I am convinced cheap hits and fighting like goons are detracting from the essence of the game: finesse, speed, discipline. Pro hockey has lost me as a fan. The Savard hit was malicious act, and Colin Campbell’s suggestion that retribution will equalize things is just nonsense and demonstrates he is unsuited as a spokesperson in his leadership role.

  10. Brad - Mar 18, 2010 at 8:30 PM

    I am deeply disappointed in the lack of leadership by the NHL, and Colin Campbell – the hit on Savard was malicious. I have lost interest in the game for constantly promoting goon behavior. Retribution on the ice only takes the game lower. It’s turning into a dumb game, with fighting and cheap shots shifting focus from the simple beauty of the real game.

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