Some quick thoughts from the NHL on TSN panel on SportsCentre on Friday night:
Penguins forward Matt Cooke's hit on defenceman Andrei Markov in Friday night's contest against the Canadiens was a clean check. The only reason we questioned the hit is because it's Matt Cooke.
Now Cooke has turned into an impact player for the Penguins - case in point, he landed a thunderous check on Markov on Friday night, which took Montreal's best player out of the game, and perhaps the series.
But Cooke can be an impact player with the puck as well.
In the opening round, he had three goals and four points in a six-game series against Ottawa. Who would have thought that going into Round 1, Cooke would turn into that type of impact player...offensively?
As long as he keeps his nose clean and as long as he continues to deliver good clean hits like he did on Markov, the National Hockey League has no problem with Matt Cooke.
In The Crease
The Pittsburgh Penguins were expecting to face the Jaroslav Halak that showed up in Round 1 against the Washington Capitals. In Games 5, 6 and 7, he was a standout in goal making 131 saves on 134 shots.
The penalty kill was superb throughout that series and Halak was a big part of the reason why. But he seemed to be out of gas in Game 1 against the Penguins and Pittsburgh took advantage of that. They certainly moved the puck on the power play a lot better than the Capitals did.
Now Halak was chased from the crease in Game 1 and replaced by Carey Price, but I don't think this is a big issue. I believe head coach Jacques Martin will go back to Halak for Game 2. The netminder is just fatigued following a seven-game series, or so it looked.
In A Scrum
At this time of year, we always refer to the Chicago Blackhawks-Vancouver Canucks rivalry as a hot spot series and this one certainly meets the criteria. We on the NHL on TSN panel have been talking about the bad blood potential all week long and NHL disciplinarian Colin Campbell held his pre-series conference call with these two teams saying he wants them to play hard.
We all want these two teams to go after each other, but it's the scrums that can lead to nastiness. So what the National Hockey League intends to do is, if there are repeat scrums (guys who continue to engage and try and lure other players into penalties), a player will get identified and end up with a penalty. That's how the league is going to try and crack down on it, if necessary.
The Boston Bruins will be leaning on the offence that was provided in the first round against the Buffalo Sabres when they face off against the Philadelphia Flyers.
They will be looking for offence from Mark Recci; the wily 42-year-old veteran who can still put the puck in the net. Centre David Krejci had a good start to these playoffs with a couple of goals, while veteran Miroslav Satan has two goals which both turned out to be game-winners.
Satan might be one of the better stories in the post-season for the Bruins. General Manager Peter Chiarelli talked to Satan around December and said the club would like to sign him. Satan said that's great, but he doesn't want to play in the American Hockey League like he did with the Penguins last season.
Chiarelli said that was no problem and gave Satan a no-movement clause. Now you show me another player in the NHL that's making $700,000 this year with a no-movement clause! But Satan's earning every bit of that contract now.