Bruins Have Choice to Make on Thursday: Payback or Playoffs

Bruins Have Choice to Make on Thursday: Payback or Playoffs The integrity of the game of hockey will be compromised on Thursday night if the Bruins seek retribution of the Pittsburgh Penguins, specifically if they go after Matt Cooke with ill intent.

It won’t happen.

You can bet the Boston Bruins will have bad blood when they face off against the very team who eliminated their best playmaker and top line center, Marc Savard, for most likely the rest of this season. But you can also bet that any intent to injure any of Pittsburgh’s top players — and a direct attack on Cooke — will not occur.

Colin Campbell, the NHL’s principal disciplinarian (or "sheriff," if you will) will be in attendance at Thursday night’s bout, and plans to address both teams' coaches and GMs prior to the start of the game. Stern words will be had for those who plot an attack. Campbell and his entourage will march into town to ensure that justice is not served and that the game of hockey is played without ill spirit and poor sportsmanship.

That’s the last thing the NHL needs. The league could use some positive reinforcement, not negative misbehavior and illegal acts made in attempts to remedy a decision that was made on March 10.

The Bruins had their opportunity on March 7 in Pittsburgh to exact revenge immediately following the hit on Savard. The way the team currently stands in the Eastern Conference playoff picture, there is nothing to gain from a make-up assault. Players will be handed game misconducts, a possible fine and a guaranteed multigame suspension if they seek righteousness from 11 days prior. The cost of losing more B’s players far outweighs the benefits of clocking Cooke, or any one of his teammates for that matter, atop the head.

Points are beyond a premium right now. The Bruins' focus needs to remain on their postseason hopes, which are already in jeopardy. Anger and retribution will not get them any further up in the standings.

What you can expect in Thursday’s game is some good, old-fashioned, physical hockey. The game plan heading into that Eastern Conference battle will be about getting the high-flying Penguins off their game plan by rattling the nerves of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin (if he plays) and the rest of the defending Stanley Cup champs. Get under their skin, take them out of the game and bang them into the boards as hard and vicious as you darn well please.

Just make sure it’s legal.

Hands down, Thursday’s matchup between the Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins will prove to be the most anticipated and discussed game of the season, but the Bruins need to be careful to not make it their last.

If they do, then there will be no hockey past April 11. Bruins players and fans would rather the talking be done in the Stanley Cup playoffs.