Bruins/Penguins To Meet Thursday Night: Will There Be Blodshed?

March 14th, 2010 No Comments

Written By: Mark “The Hard Hitter” Ritter

Fresh off the dangerous hit from Pittsburgh Penguins forward Matt Cooke on the unsuspecting Marc Savard of the Boston Bruins NHL fans await a rematch between the two sides this Thursday night in Boston.

To say everybody has an opinion about the Cooke hit would be an understatement. Opinions range from fans suggesting Savard should have been more aware to Cooke needing to be suspended for twenty games.

Given the NHL’s current rules Cooke was not disciplined for his actions, hell, he didn’t even get a penalty on the play, which shows just how inadequate NHL referees can be on most nights.

The funny part about all of this is the fact that the NHL rule book does have a rule that the Refs could have imposed on Cooke, a rule that most certainly should have been enforced and was not.

Here is a look a Rule 21 in the NHL rule book:

Rule 21 – Match Penalties

21.1 Match Penalty – A match penalty involves the suspension of a player or goalkeeper for the balance of the game and the offender shall be ordered to the dressing room immediately.

A match penalty shall be imposed on any player or goalkeeper who deliberately attempts to injure an opponent in any manner.

A match penalty shall be imposed on a player or goalkeeper who deliberately injures an opponent in any manner.

Given the wording of said rule we can establish a couple of things. First, there is no doubt in my mind that Cooke deliberately attempted to injure Savard—maybe not to the extent that he did, but he was looking to knock Savard into next week nonetheless.

Second, the Refs inability to recognize the severity of the hit and the way in which it was delivered is both alarming and a source of outrage. Undoubtedly, at the very least, there should have been a match penalty handed out

After the Savard hit the NHL and it’s GM’s met discussed the matter at length at the GM meetings in Boca Raton, Florida.

The result of said conversation was the framework for a new NHL rule that would see players reprimanded for engaging in blindside hits, aka the same hit that Cooke laid on Savard and the same hit Philadelphia Flyers forward Mike Richards laid on Florida Panthers forward David Booth earlier in the season.

The news of the rule change suggests that the NHL and GM’s realize the danger of these hits. To point out the obvious, these hits can be devastating, leading to massive head trauma and, in some cases, ending a players career.

In pure NHL fashion, the powers that be have decided to hold off on implementing the rule change until next season at the earliest. In essence, what the NHL is saying is “given the severity and the way in which these hits are laid out, we know NHL players are in jeopardy, that said, we don’t care right now, deal with it”.

My question to the NHL is this: if you know players are in danger, why wait? Why not implement change now? Why wait another minute? Why expose players to a danger that you (admittedly) know exists?

The NHL’s failure to implement change immediately is an act of stupidity and further shows just how little it cares about the players.

There is no logic behind what the NHL is doing—or lack thereof. The players are the NHL’s number one resource, last time I checked you protect your resources, it’s just that simple, isn’t it? …..I digress.

Which brings us back to Thursday nights game between the Penguins and Bruins.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the Bruins are going to be looking for a measure of revenge against Matt Cooke. Thus far there is every indication that Cooke will be in the lineup, which, in itself, will likely put him in the path of danger.

Clearly the NHL and it’s referees will speak to both the Penguins and Bruins prior to Thursday nights game to hand down a no nonsense warning to both the teams and their respective coaches.

Therein lies the problem. The NHL knows the Bruins will not only want, but need to extract a measure of revenge against Cooke, all because the NHL didn’t step up and penalize Cooke for his actions in the first place.

Clearly, the NHL has put the Bruins in a bit of a pickle to say the least. If they heed the NHL’s warning and do nothing they send a message to other teams that they can get away with anything against the Bruins. If the Bruins ignore the NHL’s warnings and seek revenge they may face disciplinary actions from the NHL, which will hamper the Bruins playoff chances and, perhaps, led to a suspension to the infringing player.

At the end of the day Thursday nights game will likely bring fourth more questions than answers. Questions that are a direct result of the NHL’s inability to deal with safety issues in a timely manner, questions that are far too often left for the players to decide upon.

If the Bruins do get a measure of revenge against Cooke then so be it, if not, surely they will look to get Cooke at another time. Let’s be honest here, Cooke will have to answer to someone for laying Savard out. We know now that it won’t be the NHL Cooke has to answer to, whether it’s Milan Lucic, Zdeno Chara or another member of the Bruins, someone will get Cooke…and who can blame them?

Nobody wants to see an NHL player get hurt. That said, it would serve the NHL right if the Bruins injured Cooke on Thursday night, all because the NHL didn’t have the balls to enforce the rules or to step up in defense of a player (Savard) who could not protect himself.

Colin Campbell, Gary Bettman— these are the guys that are supposed to enforce/do what is right for the players. The fact that they have continually sat on their hands and pussy footed along while players get hurt is disgusting and both Campbell and Bettman should be held responsible if others get injured while we wait for the NHL to impose the new rules.

Thursday night will be an important game for many reasons. Will the Bruins and Penguins keep it clean? Will the Refs let the players decide Cooke’s penalty? Will the Bruins be so focused on Cooke that they lose sight of what’s really important right now: two points?

The sad reality is Thursday nights game should be about the Eastern Conference playoff race, nothing more, nothing less. Instead, the Bruins and Penguins will be in as much a battle for their well being as they will for the win and for that we can all blame the NHL.

To read more NHL news and notes, please check out my website at (use link below)

www.theslapshot.com
Until next time,

Peace!

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