A lot of the Bruins fans I’ve talked to over the past 11 days are going into tonight’s match up with the Pittsburgh Penguins with the mindset that retribution for the Matt Cooke hit on Marc Savard should be priority #1 for the Boston Bruins. Personally I feel the same exact way. I’m also someone that has felt for years that this is a Bruins team that plays much better hockey when they have a chip on their shoulder, and tonight they should be playing flat out angry as hell. I don’t think some revenge and a win would be too tall of an order to pull off tonight.
They need to get things going right from the opening face-off in order to the crowd into it. Because the 17,565 on hand at the Garden tonight are going to be seething from the moment they walk in and will not be satisfied until their bloodlust has been fulfilled. The big question has been who they are going to target for the payback… Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Cooke himself? I’m thinking Crosby gets spared in the retaliation department, but nobody should be immune to the plethora of heavy hits that should be a constant all night. Malkin, if he plays tonight, should keep his head on a serious swivel seeing as though hits like the one Cooke delivered to Savard are technically still legal in the NHL. Which brings me to Matt Cooke… He is going to have to drop his gloves at some point in the game and answer the bell, and if Dan Bylsma (Head Coach of Pittsburgh) had half a pair on him he would start Cooke. Get it out of the way on the opening face-off and then let them play some hockey. If that were to happen and this was a perfect world I would have the Bruins starting Shawn Thornton, Milan Lucic, and Steve Begin up front with Zdeno Chara and Mark Stuart on defense. Whoever grabs the meat first gets the first bite.
Some other news that may impact the game tonight is that Colin Campbell and other league officials will be gracing the TD Garden with their presence. I’m sure he’s going to be analyzing every single move the Bruins make, looking for the slightest bit of “reckless play” so he can play another round of Dartboard Justice (as NESN’s Jack Edwards calls it). I don’t think his presence, or whatever line of garbage he tries to feed to the players and coaches about zero tolerance, should or will effect what happens on the ice. Because when it comes to the “consistent” Mr. Campbell, there is no telling what’s legal or not anymore so they need to play their game hard and heavy and let the chips fall where they may.
There’s also the matter of the two points, which would be nice to get at the end of the game. This is one of those times that the players need to reach down deep and pull out everything they have. The win and two points are extremely important, especially heading into Sunday’s game with the New York Rangers who are one point behind the Bruins in the East, but what is equally important for them to achieve tonight is the respect of their fans. I’ve been following this team the entire 30-years of my life and I know the fans here in Boston. We can take losses and we can put up with bad seasons but the reactions from the fans over the past week-and-change are different then just normal disappointment. When the team didn’t immediately respond to the hit on Savard and then when the NHL failed to suspend Cooke, everyone marked Thursday March, 18th down on their calendars. Well the day is here, we’ll just have to see what comes of it.