Say what you want about Matt Cooke. Over the course of his career, he has been an incredibly dirty player. Despite how you have felt about him before, it's hard to deny that he has cleaned up his act this season.
In fact in Cooke's first three seasons with the Penguins, he finished first or second in penalty minutes each season. This season, he is 13th in that category. He has played in every game of the season. It goes to say that he meant every word when he vowed to change his ways.
Although he's starting to earn some respect for his new-found style, a bad reputation is hard to shake. And Barret Jackman knows that.
On Tuesday, January 24, Matt Cooke received two minutes for boarding on St. Louis' Jackman with 1:19 remaining in regulation. The hit occurred when Cooke and Jackman were in a race for the puck.
As Jackman approached the end boards, there was a slight contact with Cooke coming from behind. Jackman, feeling the contact and knowing who was behind him, did his best imitation of an Italian League soccer player and threw himself head first into the boards—provoking the penalty call.
Since Brendan Shanahan took over as the league's disciplinarian, players have been penalized much more for hits to the head and boarding—with a high volume of suspensions going out as well.
Whether you agree with Shanahan's strategy or not, he's doing the best he can to make it a safer game. But when players like Barret Jackman try to exploit that, it's impossible to make progress.
This is an absolutely shameful act on Jackman's part. The league needs to come up with a way to deter it from happening in the future.
As it turned out, the bout ended in a shootout win for Pittsburgh. No harm done. Had the Blues capitalized on the power play or a major penalty been handed out, it would have been a different story.