Hockey, more than any other sport, allows its players to police themselves, because hockey, unlike other sports, allows its players to beat the living hell out of each other. That is, except for when it doesn’t allow them to. On Saturday night, during the Rangers’ embarrassing 8–3 loss to the Penguins, Pittsburgh’s Matt Cooke left his feet to deliver an open-ice elbow to the head of the Rangers’ Artem Anisimov. At the time, he was only assessed a two-minute penalty.
When Cooke exited the box, Rangers’ enforcer Donald Brashear attempted to fight Cooke, but a linesman stepped in to stop the fight before it started. (Two minutes — and two more Penguin goals — later, they’d allow the smaller and less vicious Ryan Callahan to challenge Cooke.) The Rangers, in search of some form of payback, would spend much of the third period in the penalty box, with Sean Avery later getting a game misconduct for instigating a fight with Ruslan Fedotenko.
After the game, Rangers coach John Tortorella was none too happy with either Cooke or the officials. A couple of choice quotes:
“Some of these guys that go about doing that and have no fear at all, as far as maybe a little retribution, it will continue. That’s why our game is more violent right now. I think guys hide behind that rulebook.”
“The linesman jumps in when someone is trying to take care of business. That should have been left alone. This is where our game is screwed up, as far as I’m concerned. There’s just no respect in these types of situations. I think the rulebook has a little bit to do with that.”
As luck would have it, the Rangers play Pittsburgh again tonight at the Garden. Cooke won’t be there: He’s been suspended for two games for a “deliberate check to the head area,” whatever that means. But we assure you that Donald Brashear will be there. As will Avery and sometime enforcer Aaron Voros. On MSG’s postgame show on Saturday night, the Hockey Night Live analysts were in agreement that the Rangers’ players wouldn’t want Cooke to be suspended before tonight’s game, and we concur. But between the frustration of an ugly Thanksgiving road trip and the general desire for retribution against Pittsburgh, we imagine tonight’s game will be a lot of fun, even without Cooke in the lineup. Assuming the linesmen allow it to be.