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THN.com Playoff Blog: What to make of Matt Cooke?

Matt Cooke had three goals and four points in a six-game series against Ottawa in Round 1. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images)

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Matt Cooke had three goals and four points in a six-game series against Ottawa in Round 1. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images)

I was of two minds watching Pittsburgh’s Matt Cooke help screw the lid shut on the Ottawa Senators’ season Saturday night.

One part of me was pleased to see Cooke enjoy some personal success after his deplorable hit on Boston’s Marc Savard caused some to paint him as the worst of hockey’s bad eggs.

He isn’t the most beloved guy in the league – or even on his own team – but Cooke’s envelope-pushing actions and non-existent punishment are mere manifestations of the NHL’s absentee landlord supplementary discipline culture and he shouldn’t be forever cast as a Boogeyman beyond salvation.

But on the other hand, watching him score twice for the Penguins – just one day after the Bruins could only score a single goal against Buffalo in Game 5 of their opening round series – reminded me how incensed Boston fans should be to see Cooke having a positive impact for his team.

A healthy Savard would have made it significantly easier for Boston to score on Sabres star goalie Ryan Miller in the first round, but Cooke’s said deplorable hit ensured that wouldn’t happen. And that unfortunate unfolding of events will resonate in the minds of Bruins fans as long as both players are in the league and probably long afterward.

This is why chief NHL disciplinarian Colin Campbell’s cockamamie decision not to punish Cooke is so damaging. Because of it, the Bruins and their supporters will have a lasting, legitimate grudge to hold against the league if Boston winds up losing the series to Buffalo.

Usually, sports leagues want their customers to reserve the bulk of their hatred for opposing teams. But thanks to the NHL’s logic-deficient dartboard system of justice, fan enmity gets sprinkler-sprayed in every direction, to the detriment of everyone involved.

• I’ve figured out what a player has to do to have a one-game suspension upheld – and not rescinded, as has been NHL management’s near-automatic practice for years now – for a late-game instigator penalty:

1. Refer to the second round of the playoffs as ‘sloppy.’
2. That’s it.

• As we announced Friday on The Hockey News Radio Show, Flyers winger Ian Laperriere – who is to puck-blocking as Pac-Man is to Pac-Dots – was voted by a panel of NHL experts and media as this year’s winner of THN’s John Ferguson Award.

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The Ferguson Award, which is part of our annual Awards Issue (on newsstands this week), honors the league’s toughest player. So it was extremely heartening to see Laperriere acknowledge what many of us have known for years now – there’s absolutely no valid excuse for not wearing a visor.

“(Choosing to go visor-less) was just a stupid macho thing in my head,” Laperriere said late last week after taking a Paul Martin slap shot just above his right eye. “This is my last warning. It was bad luck tonight, but it was my last warning. Call me dumb, call me stupid, but it took me that to realize my eyes are important…I want to watch my kids grow up with both eyes.”

If the toughest guy in the game today can be scared straight toward the visor department, the rest of the NHL’s stupid macho men ought to heed his words.

• Is it me, or does Aaron Johnson, the little-known star of Kick-Ass, look a little-to-a-lot like Alex Ovechkin? I don’t think it’s me.

Feeling Lucky? Subscribe or renew your subscription to The Hockey News and you and a guest could be going to the NHL Awards in Las Vegas!

Adam Proteau, co-author of the book The Top 60 Since 1967, is writer and columnist for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog will appear regularly in the off-season, his Ask Adam feature appears Fridays and his column, Screen Shots, appears Thursdays.

For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.

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