WILMINGTON, Mass. -- Sidney Crosby might be the most polarizing figure on the Pittsburgh Penguins. Sid the Kid has those that appreciate him as the greatest talent the NHL has to offer, and then there’s those who think of him as “Cindy Crosby,” who harp on his chronic complaining to officials.
There’s plenty of respect for Crosby within the Bruins dressing room, though, just as there's respect among the B's for just about everyone on Pittsburgh's talented roster.
The one exception is Penguins cheap-shot artist Matt Cooke, who has reformed a bit in the last couple of years while trying to move away from the player counted on to throw a dirty elbow at least once a month. Cooke did have only 36 penalty minutes during the 48-game shortened season for the Penguins . . . but he also partially severed Erik Karlsson's Achilles tendon with his skate blade in February.
There is an overwhelming number of Bruins still on the roster who remember Cooke’s vicious, irresponsible elbow to the head of Marc Savard three years ago that effectively ended Savard's NHL career. Cooke dropped the gloves with Shawn Thornton in the next regular season meeting between the two teams, but the Bruins haven’t forgiven or forgotten the deplorable incident.
“It’s an interesting question because if it wasn’t for that [Cooke hit], where would Marc Savard be today? He’d still be under contract with us, and would be on our team,” said Milan Lucic. “I still talk to [Savard] and keep in touch with him. He was a good friend of mine when he was on the team.
“It’s still in the back of your mind, but it’s not the focal point when you’re getting ready to play in this kind of a series.”
Cooke is averaging 15-plus minutes a night during the playoffs and appeared in all 11 games during the first couple of rounds, and he showed noticeable hustle and determination in the last few games of Pittsburgh's second-round series against the Senators.
Cooke’s been effective, but if he does start pulling his antics, it won’t do the Bruins much good to be distracted by him. Just four wins away from a Stanley Cup Finals berth, there are more important things to worry about.
Bruins coach Claude Julien lumped Cooke in with Jarome Iginla when asked about how any residual hate against Cooke will factor into the playoff series.
“It depends what you mean by that," Julien said. "Are you talking about the [Marc] Savard thing? Or are you talking about the way Matt Cooke plays? There are different ways of answering that. At one point, you’ve got to move on from certain things. Just like the next question will be like Iginla. Stuff like that. We all know about that. The thing we have to focus on is finding a way to win the series.
“If you just want revenge on this guy or that guy . . . is it really the right focus to have? The best way to get that satisfaction is by winning a series. So I think that’s where your focus has to be.”
Whether it’s because of the Savard head shot three years ago or something that undoubtedly will happen once the two highly-competitive hockey clubs knock heads in the conference finals, the smart money says that Cooke will be tangling with at least a few Bruins players before all is said and done in the next few weeks.