Both Sides Weigh in on Cooke/McQuaid Hit
PITTSBURGH, PA - It was just over a minute into the second period of Saturday night's Game One of the Eastern Conference Finals, when Penguins forward Matt Cooke put a hit on the numbers of Bruins defenseman Adam McQuaid in behind Tuukka Rask along the boards.
McQuaid went into the glass and down along the boards before he could get his bearings, and then skate to the bench under his own will. Cooke was given five minutes for checking from behind and a game misconduct. There is no further supplemental discipline expected to come his way.
As such, after the B's and Penguins held optional skates at the CONSOL Energy Center Sunday afternoon in between Games One and Two, Cooke, McQuaid, and both teams' bench bosses answered questions from the media regarding the hit.
First up, Matt Cooke…
"I chipped the puck in early, just after the red line. I had quite a bit of interference from [Torey] Krug, which pushed me inside. After I got around him, I look up, I see his right shoulder, he looks me right in the eyes. I think at the last minute he goes to make a reverse with the puck, but I've committed to hit him. I don't drive him through the boards, I make contact. I think it's a penalty, but I don't think it's an ejection or a suspension, but that's my opinion."
'Does he think reputation may have factored in?' asked a reporter.
"I don't believe in that. I don't think so," he said. "I think the referees are doing their best job to call the game. Initially it looked like he was maybe hurt, but he played a shift after. I think that probably affected their decision."
With no supplemental discipline, Cooke was happy he could try and help his team Monday night in Game Two.
"It was a great relief because I want to be out on the ice helping my team, not sitting in this dressing room worrying about winning or losing," said Cooke. "I've been in that situation before and it's no fun. Just thankful that I can go out tomorrow night and help the team."
A short time after the forward addressed the media from the Penguins' dressing room, Pittsburgh Head Coach Dan Byslma took to the press conference podium, and answered questions regarding the hit.
"The way the play unfolded, Matt comes off the interference from Krug, I think McQuaid looks at the forechecker coming, besides, he wants to attempt to make a reverse on the play and in doing so puts himself in that position, because he doesn't want a right-hand shot to go back to his right with the puck. And in doing so, went from this position to the point where Matt hit him through the numbers into the boards."
With the Bruins at the arena for their 2:00 p.m. optional practice, Coach Julien was the next to speak to media, and receive the replay of questions about the hit.
He was asked his thoughts on the play, but also on how he views the responsibility of players to not put themselves in vulnerable positions.
"I've said it before, and I'm certainly not going to change my mind because it happened to one of our players, but I've always said that we have to educate our players to not put themselves in vulnerable positions. And I'm not talking necessarily about last night, I'm talking about those kind of things that are happening and right now. Because the rule says you can't hit somebody from behind. Sometimes we take advantage of that rule, and it's dangerous."
"And in order to make our game better, I think it's got to come from both sides. Players have to understand that there's somebody coming and don't put yourself in a vulnerable position. But the player hitting, has to be aware of it. And I've been an advocate of that a long time and I still believe in it."
"As far as the Cooke situation, I think the referees had to call that. And you see his head going into the boards and numbers on numbers. Had to be called. Whether it's a 2 (minute-minor), whether it's a 5 (minute-major), I'm not going to dispute that. But more than that, I think they had to make the call."
"I'll be honest with you, I have no issues if he's not suspended because I'm not convinced it's a suspendable [hit], but I'm certainly not going to say that the referees didn't make the right decision, because I think they did in assessing the penalty."
In a broader look at the physicality of Game One,we not only saw the hit on McQuaid, but also Brad Marchand landing a hit on James Neal (received a boarding minor), Patrice Bergeron and Evgeni Malkin dropping the gloves, and Zdeno Chara having a scuffle with Sidney Crosby after the Pens' captain closed in on Tuukka Rask.
"I think no matter what I say here, everybody will have their opinion. If you're a Pittsburgh fan, it's the Bruins’ fault. If you're a Bruins fan, it's Penguins’ fault. It is up to people to judge what they see, and I'm sure people who are neutral will see it for what it is," said Julien.
With three parties having weighed in, McQuaid next sat in his locker room stall during the Bruins' media availability and patiently answered about five minutes worth of questions regarding the hit and the physicality of the game.
For the soft-spoken blueliner (he may be a tough customer on the ice, but McQuaid has always been like Patrice Bergeron off the ice), it was about four minutes more than he's usually speaking with reporters, but he sat there and answered them candidly, knowing he could soon quickly move on to just focusing on Monday night's game.
When he was told by reporters that most commenting on the hit thought he put himself in a vulnerable position, he said, calmly, "I don't know why anyone would want to put themselves in that position, why anyone would want that. If that's the way they saw it, then they're entitled to their own opinion."
So, will that add fuel to the fire heading into Game Two?
"I don't know if we needed that to motivate us. We worry about ourselves, we don't necessarily worry about them," said McQuaid. "We prepare ourselves for them, but we worry about ourselves and our own game."
As for the hit itself, McQuaid was asked about the look over his shoulder and whether or not he saw that it was Cooke coming towards him.
"I think you're aware of whoever you're playing against. You've got to know who you're out with and who you're out against," he said. "You kind of have an idea of what different guys strengths are, so you just try to be aware of that."
"I wasn't necessarily exactly sure who it was that was coming, I knew a guy was coming down on me. Guys are going to be forechecking."
The blueliner was then asked if he had been cautious getting back up after the hit.
"It's not really what goes through your mind at the time. I just kind of wasn't expecting the play, so just kind of took it by surprise, I guess. Just kind of had to take a second to sort out what had happened."
McQuaid went out for his next shift after the hit, following an examination from team personnel.
"Just get looked over and make sure everything's good, make sure that you're good to go. And that was the case."
"I feel pretty good. Like you said, I was able to come back and play."
As for any further carryover, McQuaid (and most likely, Cooke and both coaches), are planning on moving forward and keeping the mindset on what's at stake.
"Honestly, it's behind me now. There's so many things to focus on and get ready for, you just get ready for the next game. That's it."