Myers: Matt Cooke's reputation precedes him; now Wild must wait to see
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ST. PAUL, Minn. - The preseason, when teams gather on the ice for the first time since the summer layoff, is about making new friends. The postseason, when teams battle tooth and nail for the right to keep playing into the first month of summer, is about making new enemies.
In that vein, the Colorado Avalanche got re-acquainted with Matt Cooke on Monday. And if they have any real pull with the NHL office, they won't be seeing Mr. Cooke again this season.
Long before he signed with the Wild on July 5 of last summer, Cooke had earned a reputation throughout the league for being, in the words of Wild star Zach Parise, "pretty dirty." And Cooke was well-known among the NHL's folks who hand out supplementary discipline as well. He'd been suspended by the league five times prior to his arrival in St. Paul, missing 20 games and the entire first round of the 2011 playoffs, when he was with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
But this was the new Matt Cooke, wearing green and Iron Range red, right? This was the guy who played mostly clean, taking a penalty here and there, scoring a goal here and there. Of course, that was the Cooke of the regular season, which is so last week.
On Monday, in the second period of the Wild's 1-0 overtime win over Colorado, which saved them from a daunting 3-0 deficit in the first-round series, Cooke collided with Avalanche defenseman Tyson Barrie. Replays showed the hit was knee on knee. Cooke went to the penalty box for two minutes. Barrie went to the bench, and is not expected back for a long, long time.
"He's going to be out," said a candid Colorado coach Patrick Roy, making a mockery of the NHL's injury reporting system, which would officially list this as a "lower body" injury. "You know, you saw it. If I say it's the hip, if I say it's low body. You know it's the knee. It's the MCL and he's going to be out 4-6 weeks."
Colorado defenseman Erik Johnson, the ex-Gopher who's as plain-spoken as they come, wouldn't touch it when asked if it was "classic Matt Cooke" to take out an opponent come playoff time.
"I'm not going to comment on that," Johnson said. "I mean, it's a direct knee-on-knee hit. I don't want to say anything."
Roy was not so shy, making his case that it should've been a major penalty, and it should warrant a suspension by the NHL.
"I think it's the play of the game. Knee on Tyson Barrie is without a doubt the play of the game," Roy said. "We lost our best offensive defenseman. I think it could have been a five-minute major, been out of the game. Plus I think it would've broke their momentum. There's a key moment in those games. And now we believe that the league will make the right call."
Cooke didn't talk after the game, and Wild coach Mike Yeo would only say that he didn't see the play, noting that the puck was going the other way and his attention was directed that way, despite the collision coming right in front of the home bench.
So maybe we won't see Cooke for game four on Thursday. And more importantly for the Wild, one way or another there will be a game five on Saturday in Denver. The Avalanche fans will be in full throat, as most fan bases are in the playoffs. And whether he's on the ice or not, they'll have a new enemy.