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If you want blood… you almost got it.
But not quite.
Matt Cooke showed his face in Boston, and Shawn Thornton punched it, giving Bruins fans some satisfaction, despite the fact that the Small, Not-Good Bruins were shut out by the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-0.
As every NHL fan knows, Cooke delivered a cheap head-shot to Bruins star forward Marc Savard in the last meeting of these two teams, concussing Savard and probably knocking him out for the rest of the season. At the time, the bloodless Bruins did nothing to retaliate. The NHL also did nothing, with head disciplinarian Colin Campbell deciding that the hit was legal and not worthy of any suspension.
When the NHL’s corner of the sports world exploded in outcry– The Voice of Canada, Don Cherry, calling Cooke a “gutless, backstabbing little [so-and-so]” on (Canadian) national TV— the NHL circled the proverbial wagons, and assigned refs with 4,000 games of NHL experience to Thursday’s matchup, and sent Campbell himself to Boston to spin things on the pregame show and address the Bruins in their locker room before the game. (To say what, exactly? “If you touch our precious Sidney Crosby, you’re suspended for life? If you do to them what they did to you, you’ll be the ones punished?”)
In this atmosphere of bloodlust, the Bruins had legends Bobby Orr and Johnny “The Chief” Bucyk drop the first puck, in a previously planned ceremony honroing the 1970 Stanley Cup champions. (NESN managed to spell Bucyk’s name as “Johnny Bucky,” nice job. The baseball equivalent would be spelling Yastrzemski as “Yastinky.”)
When the real puck was dropped, the answer thankfully was a resounding no. On Cooke’s first shift, Shawn Thornton dropped the gloves and gave him a right pummeling. Cooke unsurprisingly kept his helmet and visor on like a wuss, so Thornton ripped it off his head and administered the well-deserved, though short beat-down, even giving Cooke a little of his own against-the-code medicine by punching him when he was crouching on the ice. Thornton has never been a cheap player or a code-breaker, so the message should have been clear. Thornton got a 10-minute misconduct penalty in addition to his fighting major, and that was that for the Cooke payback plan.
Also Thursday at the Garden, there was a hockey game played.
The Bruins came in clinging to the last playoff spot, and needed points. But, they’ve been a poor offensive team all year, and are even weaker without Savard. Pittsburgh is loaded with talent, and the Bruins were no match.
Pittsburgh took the lead on a Tyler Kennedy goal in the first, made it 2-0 in the second on an Alex Ponikarovsky deflection, and Michael Rupp made it 3-0 in the third.
Captain Zdeno Chara did drop the gloves with Rupp in the second period, but it didn’t do much to fire up his team. And Cooke was never really bothered after the short fight in the first period.
Even though they decided not to bother with more fisticuffs, the Bruins still couldn’t muster a single shot on goal for the first half of the third period, which provokes the question of what exactly they were doing out there, if neither fighting nor scoring nor even shooting the puck at the goal.
Their decision to hold off on the payback in that situation, while playing lifeless hockey– they were outshot 31-17 for the game by a team playing its second game in two nights– no doubt disappointed approximately 95% of their die-hard fans, and 100% of the casual fans who tuned in to see how the B’s would react to Cooke and company. The Bruins won no new fans tonight, and exited to a smattering of murmured boos.
More disappointment could well on the way in this dismal season, as Boston tries to sneak into the playoffs and could even get their inevitable first round whipping from the second-seeded…Pittsburgh Penguins and Matt Cooke.