Words like “cheap shot,” “blindside” and “dirty” were placed atop Bostonians’ stories describing the hit, while much of Claude Julien‘s postgame statement was published in numerous publications and was displayed prominently on ESPN’s SportsCenter.
As with anything, though, the hit in question is a matter of perception.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s game story pointed out that there was no penalty called on Cooke, didn’t mention the word “elbow” and only included that Savard “seemed unaware that Cooke was closing in on him” in describing the hit.
PensBurgh, a Penguins fan blog, wrote that “the arm/shoulder is down but it doesn’t appear Cooke was attempting to lead with an elbow.” The blog added that “sure it looks bad in slow mo, but watch again at real speed and it’s clearly not a truly late hit, even if the puck was played before Cooke got there.” The blog points out that it’s “at least valid that the four officials who saw the play unfold in real time didn’t deem this a vicious or clearly intended shot to the head.”
The postgame show on FSN Pittsburgh seemed to agree, with the studio host stating: “Again, Matt Cooke, we’re keep going to say. … He wasn’t penalized, he didn’t raise his elbow, he just went through the player.”
Yet not every story out of Pittsburgh took Cooke’s side. Ron Cook wrote that “the NHL has to end that stuff” and “if it takes making an example of Cooke to do it, so be it.”
Nationally, the perspective seems to be that the hit was dirty. Yahoo’s “Puck Daddy” blog called it “a blatant attempt to injure” and said that it “should be Exhibit A in the ‘penalize head shots’ presentation at the next owners’ meeting.”
CBC called it a “vicious hit to the head,” while a Pittsburgh fan, Chris Miller, blogging for Bleacher Report, recommended a 10-game suspension, noting that Cooke, a repeat offender for borderline hits, “is the perfect candidate to be handed the slap.”
Miller turned the story to change the perspective for fellow Penguins fans defending Cooke’s hit: “When Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin suffers a blow to the head injury, how long of a suspension will you be calling for?”
With voices around the league already chiming in, NHL officials are expected to hand down their opinion soon.