For all your knuckle-draggers still beating your chest over the Bruins’ lack of retaliation against Pittsburgh’s Matt Cooke Sunday, retreat to your caves and don’t come out until Mar. 18.
That Thursday night at TD Garden, the Bruins should have plenty of opportunity –- depending on the length of Cooke’s NHL-mandated suspension for his concussion-inducing blindside hit to Marc Savard –- to take their shots at the irritating Penguins forward.
Maybe Savard will even be back in time to exact his own retribution. As of Monday, the severity of Savard’s concussion was still not known and he returned to Boston to be re-examined. With or without Savard, and with or without Cooke, that March 18 game is sure to produce some fireworks.
Now, back to the hit and the lack of retaliation. The four officials on the ice didn't see the hit, thus there was no penalty. Even Bruins coach Claude Julien admitted he didn’t see it live. How many players on the ice, or even on the bench, saw the play? Presumably very few, so the lack of an immediate response is understandable.
Then factor in the game situation. Don't forget, the incident occurred during a hockey game and two points were on the line. The Bruins were down one goal with 5:37 to go in the third period. That’s certainly not the time to emerge from the initial shock of seeing a teammate taken off the ice on a gurney and wind up being short-handed for an extended period. The last time I looked, the Bruins were in a dogfight for a playoff spot, and with the team's inept offense, every one-goal deficit is a giant mountain to climb, even at full strength.
In the time Julien has coached the Bruins, and Milan Lucic, Shawn Thornton and others have pulled on black-and-gold sweaters, the players have had each other’s backs. But they defend each other wisely. If you remember last spring’s playoff series with Montreal, the Bruins knew the only way the Canadiens had a chance at winning was by goading Boston into foolish penalties and distracting it from playing hockey. Except for Lucic’s questionable high stick on Maxim Lapierre that landed the Bruins forward a one-game suspension, Boston’s turn-the-other-cheek philosophy worked to perfection in a four-game sweep.
There’s no doubt the Bruins will remember what Cooke did and will dole out punishment in a proper dose at the proper time. Boston has accumulated 38 fighting majors this season. Most have come at times that are best for the team. The final five minutes of a one-goal game on the road against the defending Stanley Cup champs would not have been an appropriate time for a 39th, or any other extracurricular activity.
The anger over what transpired Sunday should be directed at Cooke, at the Pittsburgh Penguins organization and at the NHL, which does more talking about eliminating vicious hits to the head than actually taking measures to stop them. If you’re directing your ire at the Bruins, it’s time to evolve.