When the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Philadelphia Flyers compiled 168 penalty minutes in Game 3 of their first-round series in the Stanley Cup Playoffs — the infractions included roughing, fighting, charging, slashing, cross-checking, kneeing, tripping, unsportsmanlike conduct and three ejections — Penguins forward Matt Cooke went unnoticed. Oh, he played; he was on the ice for fourteen minutes and eight seconds, about the same as Philadelphia’s Daniel Brière. But he had no penalties. He was once the league’s foremost cheapshot artist, but when the bodies hit the floor, Matt Cooke was nowhere to be found.
In fact, the playoffs were careering into dangerous places without him. All across the NHL waves of violence — both typical and excessive — have swept across the game. Elbows, fights, concussions, the most penalty minutes in at least five years and four suspensions (and counting, pending further decisions on Game 3 in the Penguins-Flyers series) in the first 17 games played. There were four suspensions in the entirety of the 2011 playoffs.
And yet, Matt Cooke is not among them, because after he was banned for 10 games and the first round of the playoffs last season — his fifth suspension — he is terrified of being suspended again.