This is a season to forget in Beantown

March, 18, 2010

The night began with Matt Cooke getting booed every time he was on the ice. It ended with boos directed at any Bruin on the ice.

If one game can sum up Boston's miserable season, this was it.

The "big rematch" is over. Cooke is still alive. No Bruin was stupid enough to try to take Sidney Crosby's head off as some in New England had hoped to see. And yes, Cooke paid for his sins.

Just 1:58 into this much-ballyhooed game, the Pittsburgh Penguins winger accepted an invitation from dance partner Shawn Thornton of the Bruins … an unfair matchup given the size difference, but hey, Cooke should have thought of that before he ended Marc Savard's season March 7.

Given the difference in weight classes, I give Cooke credit. He manned up big time and accepted his medicine, a one-sided tilt won easily by Thornton.

The question after that fight was whether it would be enough. Six years ago in Vancouver, when Cooke was beat up by Steve Moore, it certainly was not. The Canucks were so incensed that Moore had forgotten to lose the fight that they got back at him for it. But let's not revisit that sordid evening.

Thank goodness, however, Cooke didn't somehow manage to win his fight with the bigger Thornton. That would have been bedlam. Such is life in this sport I love so much yet which leaves me scratching my head sometimes … the code, the rules, etc. Had Cooke won his fight with Thornton, we would've been looking at an ugly mess Thursday night. Thankfully, he didn't, and the licking from Thornton pretty much defused the situation.

Sure, Zdeno Chara and Mike Rupp also dropped the gloves halfway through the second period. This fight, in my mind, had nothing to do with avenging anything from March 7; this was the captain trying to wake up his slumbering team. It didn't work.

The Bruins lost 3-0 to the Penguins as their post-Olympic funk continued; Boston is 4-5-1 since the break and is lucky as heck the teams chasing it for the eighth and final playoff spot in the East have been just as mediocre. Case in point, after the New York Rangers' 4-3 home loss against the St. Louis Blues and the Atlanta Thrashers' 6-3 win over the Ottawa Senators, Atlanta is now ninth, tied with the Rangers with 71 points (but with a game in hand) and three points behind Boston for eighth. No one deserves the eighth seed in the East!

The theory heading into Thursday's rematch was that perhaps some sort of wild night of fights might bring this Bruins team together and galvanize the moribund club just in time for a playoff push. It was a nice thought, but there was no way flying fists were going to fix the fact this team hasn't been able to score all season and even less so with its top center out of the lineup.

Remember the Montreal Canadiens' tumble from Eastern Conference champions in 2007-08 to embarrassing first-round fodder one season later? That's the same script these Bruins are following. Will they make the playoffs? Perhaps, but only to extend their season by one week. This is a season to forget in Beantown, and no amount of bloodletting Thursday night was going to alleviate the inevitable.

The show's over, folks. Move on.

More on Wisniewski

I was on Bob Murray's media call Thursday night (in fact, he was talking to us while Cooke and Thornton were dropping 'em), and thought the Anaheim Ducks GM had some great insight on his player James Wisniewski's suspension.

He's all for the NHL and league disciplinarian Colin Campbell coming down hard on head shots. But let's have justice across the board. Well said, Mr. Murray.

"[Wisniewski] crossed the line, he's got to get whacked, I have no problem with that, I support Colie," Murray said . "His job is a tough job, it's not easy, but let's make it equal across the board. Whether it's a fourth-line player or first-line player, whether the player plays on the East Coast or the West Coast. Don't forget, what's the last suspension of eight games or more here, guys? Chris Pronger here in Anaheim. Let's just get it all across the board and make sure it's even."

I also chuckled when Murray responded to the comments from Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville, who on Wednesday night called the hit one of the most dangerous in league history.

"I played in Chicago for a long time, I lived in the city of Chicago. It used to be a black-and-blue town; it didn't have whiners," the Ducks GM said. "I strongly suggest Joel worries about his goaltending and stops trying to run the National Hockey League. He should worry about coaching."


Pierre LeBrun

ESPN Senior Writer


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