Last night, the Pittsburgh Penguins demolished the New York Rangers 8-3 at the Mellon Arena. It was the largest goal total the Penguins had put on the board since a 9-2 obliteration of the other New York-based team that dated back to nearly a year ago.
Although, through the first two periods, the game was very tight. The Rangers had even made it a 4-3 hockey game early in the third period, thanks to a goal by defenseman Michal Rozsival.
But that spun out of control quickly for John Tortorella's men.
About midway through the period, Ranger agitator Sean Avery made a run at Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, looking to take off his head. Avery however, was unsuccessful as Crosby saw him coming at the last moment and was able to duck out of the way. Crosby skates away unharmed as Avery scowls at his failure.
Shortly after the Penguins scored their sixth goal of the game, third liner Matt Cooke put a bruising hit on forward Artem Anisimov, who lost his helmet and saw the birds for a few moments. Cooke was promptly and properly given two minutes for interference.
Except that was hardly enough for the Rangers.
First, Donald Brashear attempted to knock out Cooke when he came out of the box, even though the linesman was between the two.
Next, Ryan Callahan decided to drop the gloves with Cooke, having the two removed from the ice for the remainder of the game.
But finally, but not surprising at all, Avery jumped an unexpecting Ruslan Fedotenko and started throwing punches, putting the Penguins on the power play for the final seven minutes of the contest.
After the game ended, many people figured that in the new NHL, Cooke might be assessed a suspension for the hit. They were exactly right.
Today, the NHL suspended Cooke for two games, for a "deliberate check to the head area". The suspension was also given because Cooke is a repeat offender. That means he will miss the rematch on Monday with the Rangers and then the game on Thursday night with the Colorado Avalanche.
When watching the video of the hit, there are three things that stick out.
1. Cooke does not take strides before making contact with Anisimov.
2. The initial contact is made between Cooke's left shoulder and Anisimov's right.
3. Cooke's elbow comes up after contact is made, dislodging Anisimov's helmet.
While it is also true that Cooke caught Anisimov in an awkward position, the Ranger forward is paying absolutely no attention to what is going on around him. He passes the puck over to Christopher Higgins a second before Cooke arrives, but gets distracted by watching his pass.
But regardless, you can debate for years whether he deserved the suspension. Simple fact is, that he has been suspended for what could be considered a "dirty" hit in the past and this hit caught the opposing player up high, whether he intended it that way or not.
Two games is not a big deal and it was the right decision.
But with that choice, it raises more questions about consistency than the actual hits. These type of plays have happened numerous times in the NHL this season. Whether the motive was the same or the player had a history of dirty play, one thing remains the same - they all hit a vulnerable player up high.
In the exact same game, Sean Avery had not one, but two suspendable offenses. His first was the attempted head shot at Crosby, second by attacking Fedotenko.
Does that not warrant a suspension, just because Crosby had the awareness to avoid the headhunting Avery? Does that ask the question, "If Crosby did take the hit, had his helmet dislodged and saw the birds, what would have happened to Avery, a sure repeat offender himself?".
Ross was behind his own cage, taking the puck from Ray Emery. But taking an extra second to do so, Kaleta took advantage and hit him from behind into the glass. As you already guessed, he was suspended two games for the hit. Sure, it was a hit on an unsuspecting player in an awkward position.
Except only one thing. Kaleta was on the receiving end of nearly the same exact boarding foul two days earlier in Washington. He had spun around to make a pass and was leveled face-first into the boards by Alex Ovechkin, who was promptly given a game misconduct.
But no suspension for Ovechkin.
I don't feel like Mike Richards' hit even needs mentioned at this point as just about everyone in hockey is more than aware of what happened.
The fact is, they are all shots up high, whether there is an intent or not. They are illegal and could have caused an injury in any of the cases. But suspensions were not given in all of them.
Let's get some consistency.