It came at least a year too late, especially for Bruins center Marc Savard, but today the NHL finally came down hard on Pittsburgh agitator Matt Cooke.
The veteran forward and serial purveyor of questionable hits was suspended for the remainder of the regular season and playoffs by NHL discipline czar Colin Campbell for the Penguins player’s elbow to the head of New York’s Ryan McDonagh Sunday.
Campbell cited Cooke’s repeat-offender status for the harshness of the suspension. Most recently, the NHL doled out two-game suspensions to Boston’s Brad Marchand and San Jose’s Dany Heatley for similar plays. But neither player had any prior incidents.
This means that should the Bruins somehow draw the Penguins in the first round, they won’t have to worry about Cooke. In games this season with Pittsburgh, numerous Boston players, especially Johnny Boychuk, have gone out of their way to make contact with the man who might have cut short Savard’s career with a blindside hit to the head last March.
The suspension also sends a message that the league is really going to get serious about shots to the head and that multi-time offenders — a group Marchand will be a part of if he targets the head again — are on notice. Losing a player for 10 games and a round of playoffs is huge. So as Bruins coach Claude Julien said today, coaching staffs have to help players work through their issues and make sure they play the right way.
But also the players have to make a concerted effort now to avoid contact with the head, or they’ll be facing more severe consequences.