Matt Cooke, Andrei Markov

Will Matt Cooke be a changed man next season?

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While the NHL is largely populated by good guys and “aw shucks” characters, the violent sport breeds a certain amount of pests and hitters who gain the ire of the general hockey populace. Few players can compete with the villainous reputation that Matt Cooke has developed with fans, writers and hockey people in general, though.

Despite possessing strong penalty killing chops (Cooke averaged 2:45 minute of shorthanded time per game in 2010-11) and the occasional bits of offensive flourish, Cooke is defined by the many dirty hits he’s delivered over the years. Much of the hate comes from his “legal” hit on Marc Savard during the 2009-10 season, but he’s been a repeat offender who received two different suspensions last season alone. It seemed like fans of other NHL teams brought up Cooke’s name mere moments after Penguins owner and former star Mario Lemieux complained about the New York Islanders’ conduct during that notorious February 11 “brawlfest.” His antics are seen as a black eye on the Penguins franchise, if not the sport as a whole.

That being said, there are glimpses of humanity even for a supposed “monster” like Cooke. HBO’s 24/7 series caught some adorable moments between Cooke and his son. Like many other hockey players, he seems like a far more mild mannered person once he’s off the ice – his image becomes more mixed when you consider his charitable work.

Perhaps most importantly, it sounds like Cooke is hoping to clean up his act. That’s something he discussed with the Altoona Mirror after being involved in ceremonial first pitch activities for Double-A baseball team the Altoona Curve this week.

Cooke’s list of on-ice transgressions may read like the average felon’s rap sheet, but at the end of last season, Cooke promised the Penguins and their president, former Hall-of-Fame center Mario Lemieux, that he would change his ways.

“It’s a mentality, it’s how I’m going to approach the game,” Cooke said of his plan to clean up his act. “And the team has worked hard in supporting me to accomplish these minor tweaks in my game.”

Cooke told the media after the hit on McDonagh that “I don’t want to hurt anybody. That’s not my intention. I know I can be better.”

Indeed, Cooke is a compassionate humanitarian off the ice. Cooke and his wife Michelle – who now live in Pittsburgh with their three children – run a charity known as The Cooke Family Foundation of Hope that operates in the Vancouver area and has raised thousands of dollars to help families and individuals facing a wide variety of life crises.

Technically, Cooke shot a “first puck” while his 7-year-old son Jackson threw out a first pitch. Here’s video of that unusual ceremony, found via Puck Daddy.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

When it comes to Cooke’s reputation in the eyes of many, the damage has already been done. The bottom line, however, is that Cooke will probably be around for a while; his current contract won’t expire until after the 2012-13 season. With that in mind, here’s hoping that Cooke changes his ways, because his previous “style” amounted to a lot of dangerous hits that frequently went over the line. Under all that ugliness, there’s an effective NHL hockey player – even if many will understandably find it difficult to forgive him for his past transgressions.

Just about everything happened in second period of Capitals – Penguins

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Let’s just take a second to step back and rub our eyes in disbelief at this Washington Capitals – Pittsburgh Penguins game, particularly the just-passed second period.

Basically everything is happening.

Evgeni Malkin is now at 21 goals on the season as he generated a hat trick in the middle frame. That third goal will be highly – and understandably – contested thanks to possible goalie interference by Patric Hornqvist.

At his best, Hornqvist is in the thick of things, and that was certainly the case on Monday. Granted, this hit on T.J. Oshie was questionable:

Braden Holtby was chased from the Capitals net after the Penguins reeled off five goals in 8:09, which you can view here:

The Capitals brought a 2-0 lead into the second period and fattened it to 3-0. After that, the Penguins built a 5-3 lead with the flurry from above.

Brett Connolly made it 5-4 just 30 seconds after Malkin’s second goal, while Lars Eller tied it up at 5-5 about two minutes later.

That tie lasted … less than 30 seconds, as Malkin’s third tally made it 6-5 for the Penguins.

There’s a bunch of other stuff that happened, too, probably.

/catches breath

You can watch the rest of the game on NBCSN, online or via the NBC Sports App. Here’s the livestream link.

Enjoy goalie blunders? Tonight is your night (Video)

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A national holiday made for some funky start times, at least for a Monday. Perhaps that explains why we enjoyed a pretty hearty helping of goalie gaffes today, then?

Whatever the case may be, if you’re in the mood for a little whimsy, you came to the right place.

Today’s 5-2 win for the San Jose Sharks over the struggling Winnipeg Jets provided a double shot of moments netminders would like to forget, as you can see from the video above.

Michael Hutchinson‘s probably in less of a laughing mood about his bad bounce, while Martin Jones tried to score an empty-netter … and instead allowed Mark Scheifele to grab a “gimme” instead.

Finally, the Tampa Bay Lightning can laugh this one off a bit since they ultimately nabbed a 2-1 win against the Los Angeles Kings, but this would be an example fans use when they beg Ben Bishop to handle the puck a little less often:

Hey, at least two out of three goalies eventually got wins out of the deal. Sorry, Hutch.

Video: Oshie’s sweet dish sets up a nice Backstrom goal for Capitals

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There’s time for the Pittsburgh Penguins to flip the scrip, but so far on Monday, it looks like the patterns continue to go the Washington Capitals’ way.

The Caps are aiming for a 10th straight win (and Pittsburgh’s fourth consecutive loss) after taking a 2-0 lead through the first period.

The strong play of Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie stands as one of the reasons why Washington has been blazing such an impressive path, and they combined for a really nice goal to give their team that added cushion. Both Oshie’s pass and Backstrom’s goal are impressive in the clip above.

Also, here’s the Andre Burakovsky goal that began the scoring:

And, just for the heck of it:

Shane Doan isn’t asking to be traded by Coyotes, but isn’t saying no either

TORONTO, ON - DECEMBER 15:  Shane Doan #19 of the Arizona Coyotes skates against the Toronto Maple Leafs during an NHL game at the Air Canada Centre on December 15, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Coyotes defeated the Maple Leafs 3-2 in an overtime shoot-out. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
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Imagine, for a second, Shane Doan wearing another team’s jersey. Apparently it’s not out of the question.

During the weekend, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported that Doan would be willing to waive his no-trade clause for the right situation. Despite his 1,500+ games with the Jets/Coyotes, Doan responded mostly in the affirmative to NHL.com, although the rugged forward notes that it would take a “perfect” scenario to make everything work.

(He said that he hasn’t been asked to waive his no-trade clause … but he might be open to suggestion.)

“I’d talk about it with my family and make a decision on that if it was to come up but it would have to be so perfect and so right that it’s pretty hard for it to all line up perfectly,” Doan said. “It would have to be exactly perfect and that just doesn’t happen too often in our sport.”

The 40-year-old interestingly notes that the discussion has come up before, only word hasn’t surfaced in reports. He even said that there were times when he gave his approval, although in most cases, his answer was “No.”

What is perfect?

What’s the perfect situation? That’s where things are fuzzier, as Doan explains that picking a “contender” can be a little trickier when you consider where, say, the Penguins and Sharks were around this time last year.

Doan says family matters, yet he also seems somewhat flexible in that area. After all, it might just be for a few months as a “rental.”

Measuring his value

On the other end, of course, you must also wonder who will want him.

The pluses are easy to see: he’s big, physical and checks off a ton of the “intangibles” boxes. Chances are, a perspective team would weigh his 28 goals from 2015-16 more heavily than his mere 12 points in 42 games this season.

That said, at his age, and considering his numbers this season, there’s the obvious question regarding how much he has left in the tank.

Then again, if the price is reasonable – and the Coyotes certainly are looking to sell off expiring contracts – then it could make for an interesting situation.

If anything happens at all.