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Brickley on D&C: Cooke will be dealt with

When Penguins forward Matt Cooke [1] hit Marc Savard [2] on March 7, he took Boston’€™s top playmaker out for the remainder of the 2009-10 season. But there was no response to Cooke from the B’s players on the ice.

NESN Bruins analyst Andy Brickley said he thinks the Penguins won’€™t be so lucky tonight.

‘€œI’€™m around this team all the time, they have good conviction, they do stand up for one another, and when they play physical and when they play tough, they’€™re a good team, and they still have some skill that makes them a threat in the Eastern Conference.’€

Brickley caught up with the guys on Dennis & Callahan to hit on all things Savard and Cooke, addressing how he thinks the Bruins will respond, when they’€™ll respond, and why, as a team, they have to respond.

‘€œWell, [if they don’€™t respond], it says that they wouldn’€™t be a team, that they don’€™t have each others’ backs. That we’€™re a weak team, and we’€™re very vulnerable, and teams like that don’€™t exist, they don’€™t last very long.’€

Read below for a transcript. To hear the interview, click here. [3]

Is it more important for the Bruins to make a point tonight to the league or score some points against the Penguins?

Well, no question they need points, given the situation they’€™re in, in the Eastern Conference. But that will be secondary tonight, this is an opportunity to respond, something they didn’€™t do at the time, when Marc Savard was hit by Matt Cooke, and they will take every opportunity to make sure their character is no longer in question.

Will this just be the Bruins taking the body all night tonight, or will there be a line of Boston tough guys lining up to drop the gloves with this guy?

My expectation is that, and if I was Danny Bylsma the coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins [4], I would make sure Matt Cooke starts tonight. Don’€™t give it a chance to continue to percolate, wait for this first shift, and allow the crowd and everybody else to get behind this. I would start him, put him on the first shift, and I would expect Boston to line up guys like [Zdeno] Chara [5] and [Milan] Lucic [6] and [Mark] Stuart [7], and make sure it’€™s a very long night for Matt Cooke. You almost feel like, don’€™t suspend this guy, make him have to play the whole game, he can’€™t take any shifts off, he has to play the full 60 minutes, that might be the best retribution that you can put on the ice.

So what happens after the puck drops ‘€” or will it even drop before something happens?

Well, this is all speculation, but I think, first of all the puck has to drop, or you get in more problems with the league. But, yeah, you call him out. It’€™s very plain and simple. Whoever lines up against him, you want to make it the longest night possible for him. The analogy is the whole Mike Richards [8] hit on David Booth, that is the lightening rod that has been all the discussion with hits to the head all year long after that hit. What happened after that hit? Did Florida respond, was there a five-on-five brawl, was that frontier justice, to steal a line from Jack Edwards, in play ‘€” that didn’€™t happen. But it was the ensuing game when things needed to be addressed. And they were addressed. And Mike Richards went out on the ice, expected to be challenged, was challenged, and once he stood up for himself, and once they got through that and things were settled, everybody was pleased with how it was handled.

Any chance we sit here tomorrow and say boy, nothing happened last night?

No, I don’€™t think we’€™ll have that conversation tomorrow.

What if he chooses not to fight?

I’€™m not sure. That would not be the best course of action for Matt Cooke, and I don’€™t expect that to happen, and I don’€™t think that will be allowed to happen. This is a guy that plays on the edge, he’€™s a repeat offender, if you take a look at the list of guys that he’€™s fought in his career, its not a who’€™s who list of tough guys in the NHL [9], but I don’€™t think that’€™s going to happen.

Do the Bruins feel bad about their lack of response on the night it happened?

I think so. I think so, if you go back to that night in Pittsburgh, I know Jack didn’€™t see it, I saw it out of the corner of my eye because we were following the puck. I talked to other people that were broadcasting the game, they didn’€™t see it.

Michael Ryder [10] saw it.

Michael did see it. And he did go over and try to do what he did to Matt Cooke, but if you talk to the players on the ice, it was one of those situations, one-goal game, they need the points, nobody got a real good look at it outside of Michael Ryder, so I will give them the benefit of the doubt that it didn’€™t happen, there was no immediate response. I brought up the Florida and Philadelphia situation for that reason. Sometimes you just don’€™t see it if you’€™re on the ice, I know in the old days, well, contact, your player goes down, there was an immediate response, that’€™s the way the game was, it’€™s not like that anymore.

So the self-policing rules have changed a bit since you used to play?

Oh absolutely. And they have to revisit this whole instigator penalty, until they change that, nothing will change. And the league has some black eyes they have to address, and this is definitely one of them. Hopefully they will, because they got it wrong, plain and simple. This was a blind-side hit to a defenseless player in a position where he had no idea the hit was coming. It was predatory in nature, he targeted the head, and he’€™s a repeat offender ‘€” how can you not suspend this guy? And I don’€™t understand the logic behind it, they had an opportunity to make a difference, to make the right call, and they didn’€™t do it. Again, I will reference the Richards hit on Booth, when that happened, they said we have to take a look at this. And there’€™s been hits to the head after that, where there’€™s been no penalties on the play, no priors, I’€™ll use Curtis Glencross’€™s hit on Chris Drury [11], no priors, yet they suspended him because it was a hit to the head, something they have to address. Now, they have a chance to really lay the law and change the rule, say this was intent to injure, and they drop the ball.

But the irony would be if Michael Ryder had done something about it, he might get suspended instead. That’€™s sick.

Yeah, that’€™s true. You know, that’€™s why I said, this is, and I’€™ll steal another line from Jack Edwards, dartboard justice, there’€™s no logic, and there’€™s no reasoning sufficient for me to be able to understand the rules that come down from the office in New York. And Colin Campbell [12] is going to be in attendance tonight, and the two teams will be addressed, and there will be warnings put out, they created this culture. They created it. And now they want to manage it, and I think it’€™s up to the Bruins to handle it themselves.

Is there any chance Sidney Crosby [13] or [Evgeni] Malkin pays the price for this?

That’€™s the other layer of this. We’€™ve already talked about the five-on-five brawl that might have ensued years ago. I know, when I broke into the league back in the early ’80s, when your good players were targeted, OK, you might want to go after the guys that targeted your good guys, but you went after their skill guys ‘€” that’€™s the way it works. And, I think that’€™s part of the message that needs to be sent in Pittsburgh. That if Matt Cooke isn’€™t going to be suspended, and everybody wants to focus their attention on Matt Cooke, the other layer is then lets focus on their skill guys. Apparently it’€™s OK to go predatory in nature and target head hits on skill guys because the league’€™s saying it’€™s OK.

When Savard walks into the locker room again, will there be a chill between him and Michael Ryder?

Nothing will change there, they’€™ll still be very good teammates, they will understand the situation, that will not be a problem. I think if the situation just goes away tonight and there’€™s no response by Boston as a team, then you would have a problem, but that won’€™t happen.

If the Bruins chose to do nothing tonight, that sends a message ‘€” what is that message?

Well, it says that they wouldn’€™t be a team, that they don’€™t have each others’ backs. That we’€™re a weak team, and we’€™re very vulnerable, and teams like that don’€™t exist, they don’€™t last very long. They don’€™t make playoffs, they don’€™t have deep playoff runs. I’€™m playing along, but that’€™s not going to happen. I’€™m around this team all the time, they have good conviction, they do stand up for one another, and when they play physical and when they play tough, they’€™re a good team, and they still have some skill that makes them a threat in the Eastern Conference. I know there’€™s been a lot of talk about the Dallas game last year and how much that brought that group together when things got a little nasty out there with Avery, but this is an opportunity for them tonight, and they will seize it.

So if he fights, who does he fight?

Who will relish the opportunity? Certainly Milan Lucic is on the roster, Mark Stuart is in the mix, Zdeno Chara is along there ‘€” you look at your leaders and your tough guys and guys that can handle the situation to be at the top of the list, but it could be anybody, it’€™s the ultimate team sport. There’€™s 20 guys in the lineup.

Claude Julian was uncomfortably calm after this incident, is he that way behind closed doors?

No. You try to know your audience, you try to get certain results depending on who you’€™re talking to. You know, what do I need out of this situation and what’€™s my best tact, he’€™s very smart that way. You definitely know who’€™s boss over there, he has a firm hand, he knows when the team needs a good, swift kick, and at that time, he tried to control his emotions. And he did hope, as did I, as did everybody, that the league would handle it properly, and they didn’€™t. So, my anticipation is that Claude will have no problem with his teams’€™ emotions tonight.

So what he said in public might not be what they’€™re saying in the locker room ‘€” does that go for Lucic when he said, ‘€œRight now we’€™re in a dog-fight to stay in a playoff position, right now that’€™s what’€™s on our minds. Savvy would be a lot happier if we just got a win against Pittsburgh.’€

Well I think that’€™s been the message coming from inside the locker room ever since the Pittsburgh game.

Tell me he doesn’€™t mean it, though.

Well, you know, read between the lines, and I think actions speak a whole lot louder than words. And I can appreciate that sentiment coming from the Bruins, saying that it’€™s all about points and wins will be retribution enough, but I think we know better.

Does this start to unfold drop of the puck, first shift, first period?

I’€™m hopeful Matt Cooke starts the game, I think it’€™s the smartest move that Pittsburgh can make, I think that’€™s what Dan Bylsma will do. That is my expectation, that it will happen early, they’€™ll want to try to get it out of the way, not let it build into a frenzy. Pittsburgh, you know lost last night against New Jersey, they’€™re slipping in the standings, and I think this situation has also been on their radar ever since the Cooke hit on Savard.