Legal or Illegal… That hit was flat out dirty!
I’ve spent the past two days trying to write this blog, with every attempt turning into an obscenity laced rant about how furious I am over the Matt Cooke hit on Marc Savard. So strap in, because this could get lengthy.
Let me get the game out of the way first… In my opinion the Bruins, lead by the efforts of Tim Thomas, were keeping it a very close game against the defending Stanley Cup Champion – Penguins. Timmy played great, the defense was playing good, and the forwards couldn’t get the puck in the net. Same old story lately… Then with 5:37 left in a very tight game, the Bruins attempting to tie it up and get at least one of two very important points and a bit more ground on the extremely competitive Eastern Conference standings… the game changed.
Marc Savard takes a pass from Milan Lucic and fires a wrist shot, high and wide of the goal, as he’s gliding backwards through the slot. With everybody’s attention (including all four on ice officials) on the play down in the corner Matt Cooke came up from behind Savard’s blind spot (the only way a left handed shooter would’ve seen him coming is if they had an eye just behind their right ear) and delivered a gut wrenching hit to Savard’s head.
What came next was something that no hockey fan (regardless of you affiliation) ever wants to see.
Marc was lying motionless on the ice and according to GM Peter Chiarelli he was unconscious for “around twenty seconds.”
After further review of the hit the only way I could describe it is, absolutely disgusting. Don’t get me wrong… I love big, crushing, open ice hits that send players flying to the ground like a sack of potatoes. (see Ovechkin’s hit on Jagr in the Olympics) And as someone that played hockey for over fifteen years, I loved seeing a player stick handling in my zone with his head down. Rule #1 that you learned as young as the Mite level was to skate with your head up or you’ll end up on your back. But what we all saw on Sunday has nothing to do with any of those factors. Marc had his head up, was following the play, and was delivered a blatant cheap shot.
Another reason for the outrage on this specific incident is that this wasn’t the first time Matt Cooke has delivered a hit like this. He received 2-game suspensions for putting extremely similar hits to the heads of Carolina’s Scott Walker (on Jan. 20, 2009) and New York Rangers center Artem Anisimov (on Nov. 28, 2009). I dare you to YouTube either of those and tell me how those hits differ from the one he put on Savard, besides the fact that Walker and Anisimov got up and returned to the game. If I really wanted to stir the pot with regard to Cooke’s history of dirty play I’d sight his 2-game suspension from 2004 (then with the Canucks) for spearing Minnesota Wild’s Matt Johnson or his knee-to-knee hit in the Playoffs last May that injured Carolina’s Erik Cole (that one ended up going unpunished).
The GMs and other league officials are all down in Florida putting their heads together on a variety of issues this week. The biggest issue being hits to the head and they’re using the Savard hit as “Exhibit A.” All the while those of us here in Boston are impatiently waiting to hear what type of disciplinary action (or lack there of) is going to be handed down on Cooke. This of course poses another huge problem I have, and it’s that the league (more specifically Colin Campbell) seems to be talking out both sides of his mouth… Yesterday afternoon on NHL Live (on NHL Network) he made the bold statement, “We’ve taken hits to the head out of the game.” Then later in the evening (on a Toronto radio show) he’s called Cooke’s hit on Savard a “legal hit with the shoulder.” Well my question is which one is it… because by saying that they’ve taken that type of hit out of the game (which they haven’t yet, but are meeting this week to decide whether to or not) that would lead me to believe that it would be illegal to hit someone in the head and I don’t think anyone can argue that what Cooke did on Sunday was 100% a hit to Savard’s head. Confused yet? Yeah me too… If that’s legal and the league isn’t going to make it illegal or punish these types of players more severely then they need to look into removing two things from the current rule book… the instigator penalty and the auto-suspension for fights past the 5-min. mark in regulation. That way at least the players can go back to policing themselves. But as it stands, and what most people complaining about the Bruins lack of immediate retaliation don’t realize is, they were basically handcuffed at that point in the game. Regardless of the fact that it was a one goal game and the Bruins need every win they can get right now. If one of our guys grabbed Cooke and started wailing on him he’d get 5(fighting)+2(instigator)+game misconduct & 1 game suspension then have go in front of Campbell and the board for further review. But the hit on Savvy was some how legal? Come on…
As of right now Savard is back in Boston with a Grade 2 concussion and may be out for the remainder of the season. Matt Cooke has yet to be disciplined by the NHL, but they’re expected to give their decision before the Penguins play the Hurricanes on Thursday. I’m not expecting to be happy with it, just saying.
As far as tonight’s game against the Maple Leafs, the word from Toronto is that Zdeno Chara is not playing (day-to-day) due to an undisclosed lower body injury that might be carried over from the Olympics. But some good news to wrap this up is that Tim Thomas will be getting the start tonight and Tuukka Rask is back, ready to go, and will be backing Tim up.