In Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semis against Washington, Pittsburgh defenseman Sergei Gonchar was knocked out of the game due to a reckless knee-on-knee hit by league golden boy Alex Ovechkin. Everyone at our Penguins bar immediately started clamoring for a suspension. I told 'em one wouldn't be coming, ya know, because the league needed Ovechkin in that series as much as possible.
So now the question remains...does the league need Matt Cooke in every game of the Eastern Conference Finals?
Last night, Cooke hit Carolina forward Erik Cole with what appears to be a similar knee-on-knee bump. The obvious difference is that Ovie took a run at Gonchar when Gonch didn't have the puck, while Cooke was looking to impede Cole as he was streaking to the slot, but I'm not gonna argue logistics.
I will be watching the league's decision closely, though.
After the hit that dropped Gonch, Cooke went on the record with his opinion on the hit. He knew that his style of play hadn't made him many friends at the league offices, but that shouldn't influence decisions on star players like Ovechkin. Cooke offered this about Ovie's hit:
"If I did what [Ovechkin] did, I wouldn't be on the ice."
Now I don't believe Cooke was just talking about getting ejected from the game...but more about if he'd see the ice in the next one. Again, the circumstances of Cooke's hit and Ovie's hit were completely different, so I'm taking the possibility of an ejection out of the equation.
In doing so, we have two guys who both hit an opposing player knee-to-knee. However, will Cooke's history precede him? He's a known agitator who has been suspended in the past, so I'm anxious to see if that works against him. Fans have already had a forum to absolve or hate on Cooke, so we know that there's a certain percentage of fans who will call Cooke's hit dirty based only on his past.
And now it's up to the league. They set a shaky standard by not suspending a star player like Ovechkin during arguably the league's biggest playoff series in years. Now, they're left with either upholding their decision on Ovechkin by giving Cooke a pass, or suspending Matt and showing the fans that they have a gross double standard when it comes to protecting their superstars.
Video of the Cooke hit is below. If Cooke is suspended, I'll be more than happy to share some choice words for the league.