Matt Cooke is not a saint (this one is serious)

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Matt Cooke is not a saint (this one is serious)

By Mary Paoletti
CSNNE.com

I'm a fan of perspective.

As a story-teller, I realize there's often more than one side to everything and that both should be explored. Especially if the main character is being put on trial.

But don't insult my intelligence with a 'Matt Cooke's not a bad guy' angle.

This excerpt is from SI's story, "The Public Enemy":
Cooke is at an Italian restaurant in Pittsburgh's Strip District with John Lawrence and his family. Lawrence is 19. When he was 16, he suffered extensive brain and spinal injuries in a car accident and remained in a coma for 10 months. When Cooke heard about Lawrence through his foundation last fallMatt and his wife, Michelle, started the Cooke Family Foundation of Hope five years agohe invited Lawrence's family to the opener in Pittsburgh's new Consol Energy Center in October and took him to practice the following day. While Cooke was being trashed in the wake of the Ovechkin and Tyutin hits, Lawrence's father called a reporter at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review who previously had written about his son to say the city should know the other side of Matt Cooke. "John admired Matt's bravery and strength and turned to that when his rehab was rough," said his father, who is also named John. "Everybody was teasing John that his favorite guy was a dirty player, a goon, but Matt's just a guy who fights for his position on the team. A battler."

I thought of it today because at 1:30 p.m Cooke had a disciplinary meeting with Colin Campbell -- the third since February 6. He's accused of yet another dirty hit and the question is not if he'll get suspended again, but for how long.

Matt Cooke is rotten and I'm sick of hearing otherwise. He could start 15 foundations and it wouldn't matter. Why? This is a hockey problem. There can be no character witnesses who aren't employed by the NHL.

And this statement by Cooke -- "The biggest thing for me is that on the ice, there's a persona. It's what it is because that's what's made me successful. But that has nothing to do with who I am" -- is worthless.

This is what you aren't understanding, Matt: I don't care who you are as a person. On the ice -- as a hockey player -- you recklessly hurt opponents. And it needs to stop.

A Stanley Cup and nine 10-goal seasons in 10 years doesn't make someone who repeatedly hits guys in the head a tough, niche-player. There's a list of guys in the NHL who, despite philanthropy or impressive stats, will also be remembered as jerks because of dirty hits.

Here are a few. I hope the names make you feel less lonely, Cooke. The way guys with prison girlfriends don't feel lonely.

MARTY MCSORLEY
Off the Ice: Has participated in the Scotiabank ProAm hockey tournament that benefits the Gordie & Colleen Howe Fund for Alzheimer's. "To see people you love . . . slipping away. It's hard.'' McSorley said. Alzheimer's is terrifying; it's difficult not to sympathize.

On the Ice: Repped as one of the NHL's dirtiest players. He retired with 3,381 career penalty minutes. The video shows a hit on Donald Brashear that earned him a 1-year suspension from the NHL and an assault conviction in Canadian court. Seriously.

BRYAN MARCHMENT
Off the Ice: Participated in team charity events that benefited the UConn Children's Cancer Fund. He's also golfed in the Gary Roberts and Friends celebrity tournament held to raise money for Jumpstart (helps low-income children succeed in school).

On the Ice: 13 suspensions in his first 12 seasons. Has injured: Mike Modano, Joe Nieuwendyk, Greg Adams, Mike Gartner, Kevin Dineen, Peter Zezel, Pavel Bure, Paul Kariya, Wendel Clark and Martin Rucinsky. (What's that, four different countries?!) Marchment really shines at the 1:00 mark of this video.

ULF SAMUELSSON
Off the Ice: He's given countless sticks away to fans and charities. The Swede has played charity hockey in his home country as well.

On the Ice: Tuffe Uffe's fans and most teammates loved him. That's because they never opposed his elbows. "Ive never tried to put a player out for the season, Samuelsson once said. But it wouldnt bother me if I put a player out for a game.

Um.

CLAUDE LEMIEUX
Off the Ice: In 2009, Lemieux skated in "Battle of the Blades." The couples figure skating represented one or two charities. Shares respected hockey opinions on TSN's "Off the Record."

On the Ice: Another Stanley Cup winner. Snagged the Conn Smythe Trophy in 1995. Could also be a total dick. Biting Calgary's Jim Peplinski's finger in a fight was small time. Check out these classy moves. Dino Ciccarelli on Lemieux after the 1996 Detroit-Colorado series: "I can't believe I shook his freakin' hand."

BOBBY CLARKE
He's considered a legend: Hall of Famer; four Stanley Cup finals; three 100-point seasons; three Hart Trophies. He was a much better hockey player than Matt Cooke could ever hope to be. He was also dirty.

While watching this video, keep in mind that this game was a "friendly" with Czechoslovakia.

Acciari glad to be back with B's after missing a month

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Acciari glad to be back with B's after missing a month

BOSTON -- Noel Acciari missed a month of game action with a lower body injury, so it would have been perfectly acceptable to show plenty of rust in his game upon returning to the Boston lineup.

But the former Providence College standout didn’t look rusty, a step behind or out of place in any way as he played the fourth line energy forward role to a perfect fit after missing the last 13 games. Acciari did get in one game with the Providence Bruins prior to suiting back up for the Black and Gold on Saturday, and perhaps that helped him manufacture a couple of shots on net to go along with three thumping hits against the Maple Leafs.

The 25-year-old Acciari didn’t factor into the scoring at all for the Bruins, but that’s just as well given that his focus should be on killing penalties, being hard to play against and taking the body whenever the chance presents itself. Claude Julien reformed the B’s energy line that had so much success earlier in the season with Acciari, Dominic Moore and Tim Schaller, and didn’t hesitate tossing them back into the mix together while looking for energy and a spark for an offensively stunted team.

“It’s good to be back with my linemates, and you know, I think we kind of picked up where we left off, but there’s definitely things we need to work on. That’ll come with a couple more practices and games together,” said Acciari, who finished theSaturday loss with three registered hits packed into 11:35 of ice time. “Kind of getting back to our familiarity and kind of get back to where we were before I got injured.

“It was a good start tonight, but we definitely just weren’t clicking like we used to, but that’ll come. I think that will come. Like I said, a couple practices and just kind of getting some games in [are good things]. I thought we were pretty good tonight, but, you know, should get more pucks to score [goals].”

Clearly there is room for improvement for everybody including Acciari, but it was encouraging to see the fearless competitor again flying around on the TD Garden ice playing high intensity hockey for a fourth line that could use every little bit of that. 

Backes: "Offensive frustration is warranted at this point"

Backes: "Offensive frustration is warranted at this point"

BOSTON -- This may not come as a surprise, but the Boston Bruins are having some trouble putting the puck in the net.

Despite outshooting the Maple Leafs by an 11-2 margin in the first period and outshooting them by a 32-21 margin over the balance of the 60 minute game, the Bruins scratched for just a single goal in a frustrating, constipated 4-1 loss to Toronto at TD Garden. Clearly some of the offensive difficulty was caused by a solid Frederik Andersen, who improved to 6-0-0 in a career against Boston that’s beginning to take on Bruins Killer proportions.

But a great deal of the B’s struggles to finish scoring chances on Saturday night is a malady that’s dogged the Bruins all season, and marked the 20th time in 29 games this year that Boston has scored two goals or less. In most of these games the Bruins have dominated puck possession and outshot their opponents, but still have come away mostly empty handed in the goals scored department while dropping deep in the bottom third of NHL offenses this season.

“It seems like every game we’re out-chancing teams, but we don’t outscore teams. That’s where the biggest issue is right now. Our scoring is not there and if you don’t score goals you don’t win hockey games,” said Claude Julien. “Because of that we criticize everything else in our game, but our game isn’t that bad.

“If we were scoring goals people would love our game right now, but that’s the biggest part. There’s not much more I can say here except for the fact that if we don’t score goals it’s going to be hard to win hockey games.”

But the Bruins aren’t scoring goals consistently, their power play is below average while trending in the wrong direction and the team has been forced to watch steady offensive players like Patrice Bergeron suddenly slump in a concerning way. Clearly David Pastrnak is doing his part with 18 goals scored this season in 24 games, and others like Brad Marchand and Dominic Moore have also performed above, or beyond, their acceptable level of play.

But there are other players failing with the chance to make an offensive dent: Austin Czarnik has been on the roster for nearly two months, and has zero goals and two points in his last 15 games as the offense is again dried up on the third line. He missed wide on a shorthanded chance in the third period after a Moore centering pass set up him all alone in front, and was critiquing himself for fanning on a perfect dish to him in the slot.

Moments later the Leafs had an insurance score from James van Riemsdyk to make it a 3-1 game, and it was all over for the Black and Gold at that point.

Czarnik is an easy target because he’s young and inexperienced, but there is more than enough struggle and frustration to go around with a bunch of offensive players that can’t seem to get out of their own way. David Backes admitted it’s reached a point where the Bruins are frustrated when they can’t score enough to beat a team like Toronto, and that it falls squarely on the lead guys in the Black and Gold dressing room that are underperforming.

“I think offensive frustration is warranted at this point; we just haven’t done a good enough job scoring goals. We played a heck of a first period. We limited them to two shots and we had an opportunity to have a team that’s coming in here that’s a younger team, to really put them behind the eight ball,” said Backes. “Instead, they think they got a second lease on life and they were able to capitalize. All of the sudden, they were up 2-0 and we’re fighting an uphill battle again rather than -- we have that opportunity to play a heck of a first period and we don’t find a way – it’s easy to talk about, but it’s going out there and doing the job and putting it past or through the goalie, or however it needs to happen. “You’ve seen our goals; you want to do a study on it unless you’re Pasta [David Pastrnak] with the one-timer on the side, it’s been ugly, it’s been rebounds, it’s been greasy goals and that’s our equation and we need more of it, and we didn’t do it. They did a good job of being in front of their net and boxing out, eliminating those second chances. But, we’ve got good players in here that need to create more and find those second chances and win those battles, find those loose pucks, and throw them in the net.”

The Bruins have been talking seemingly all season about the need to get to the “dirty areas in the offensive zone”, and for players to jump all over the second and third chance opportunities currently going by the board unchallenged on goalie rebounds.

Now it’s about speaking with action for the B’s, and more specifically speaking volumes with goals and offensive finish instead of “chances” that aren’t doing much of anything if they’re not being snapped into the back of the net.