While it might be too soon to start engraving it on the Lady Byng trophy, the name “Matt Cooke” could soon be synonymous with gentlemanly conduct.
That’s something Chris Johnston of the Canadian Press touched on in a piece discussing the NHL’s culture shift of player safety. Cooke, arguably the most active cheap-shot artists of our generation, has been suspended five times for illegal hits. Yet this year, he seems to have turned over a new leaf.
Cooke’s focus is on skill, not kill — he has 10 points in 17 games with a plus-3 rating — and perhaps most impressively, he’s recorded just four penalty minutes.
“For Brendan Shanahan and player safety, here’s a guy that they can show on some highlights and the videos, where he’s not taking the hit or he is pulling up (in dangerous situations),” Penguins GM Ray Shero told Johnston. “He’s still got a ways to go. But in the first portion of the season here and exhibition as well, he has changed the way he’s played and he’s still a really good effective player for us in his role.
“That’s good news for us and it’s good news for Brendan Shanahan in terms of what he’s trying to do.”
The turning point for Cooke was in March, when he got tagged for his fifth and most recent suspension following an elbow on the Rangers’ Ryan McDonagh. That one cost him 10 regular-season games and the entire first round of the playoffs — 17 games all told. But after spending the offseason re-evaluating his game and watching 30 hours of video, Cooke seems to have figured out how to be an effective NHLer without maiming his peers. Which is nice.
“I like the player, I like the person and I think he has got something to add,” said Shero. “After the McDonagh incident he did a lot of self-examination with his family and what he wanted to be as a person and a father and a player.”
Cooke’s transformation could be seen as a microcosm of what Shanahan hopes to do with the NHL. A combination of stern punishment, video integration and emphasizing player respect went a long way in Cooke’s rehabilitation — the same things Shanahan is utilizing as the new discipline czar.
Minnesota Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon has a pretty good knack for scoring goals, especially considering the fact that he doesn’t always take a ton of shots.
Maybe Bruce Boudreau should consider asking him to fire away a little more often.
You won’t see many prettier examples of hand-eye coordination than Spurgeon’s power-play goal from Tuesday’s game against the New Jersey Devils, which gave the Wild a 1-0 lead:
It’s almost impressive enough to justify rhyming his last name with surgeon. You know, theoretically.
Tuesday’s Dallas Stars – New York Rangers almost seemed destined to be a wild affair, and so far, the two teams aren’t disappointing.
For one thing, Chris Kreider and the Rangers were open about “not forgetting” Cody Eakin‘s hit on Henrik Lundqvist, something Eakin realized heading in. The Stars had their own irritations coming into this game, as they clearly weren’t happy with their loss to the Buffalo Sabres and their shaky play overall.
So, yeah, plenty of reason for this to be a rowdy affair.
Kreider is delivering in particular, with the most memorable moment being his strange fight with Eakin, which you can see above. SBNation’s Pat Iversen points out that Kreider probably should have been ejected for hitting Eakin with a piece of his equipment, a violation of Rule 53.
As many know, Kreider has even more of a reputation for “interacting” with goalies, as he did once again with Antti Niemi:
The Stars currently lead the game 5-3, so it’s been a busy one on the scoreboard, too.
Down 2-0 to the Buffalo Sabres, the Toronto Maple Leafs are off to a shaky start on Tuesday. Still, their concerns likely revolve the most around the health of defenseman Morgan Rielly.
As you can see from the video above, the young Buds blueliner was shaken up by an awkward spill into the boards.
It’s too early to know if he avoided injury or might miss some time, but there’s at least some concern that he might have aggravated an issue from before his NHL days:
We’ll need to wait and see, but with his offensive skills and overall importance in mind (average just under 23 minutes a game this season, more or less in line with his breakthrough year in 2015-16), the Maple Leafs are crossing their fingers that this isn’t anything major.
The Chicago Blackhawks need to put a tough weekend behind them; maybe the Colorado Avalanche are just what the doctor ordered.
Colorado is clearly ranked last in the league, whether they believe they have some assets in the likes of Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog or not. Perhaps there will be a few scouts on hand to see how such potential Avs trade targets perform against a contending team?
It’s rarely a dull night when the Blackhawks roll out talented players like Patrick Kane, Artemi Panarin and Jonathan Toews – among others – so it should be a good time on NBCSN on Tuesday.
You can watch online or via the NBC Sports App. Click here for the livestream link.