BOSTON (CBS) — We’re deep into playoff season, and the stakes continue to rise. With the raised stakes comes a raised intensity level, and the Bruins and Penguins displayed that very clearly in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals on Saturday night.
The two teams combined for 45 penalty minutes, with some violent calls like roughing, boarding, fighting and unsportsmanlike conduct making appearances on the stat sheet. Penguins winger Matt Cooke did his part to escalate matters, driving into the back of Adam McQuaid and sending the big Bruins defenseman face-first into the glass.
Cooke was issued a five-minute major penalty and a game misconduct for the hit, but the NHL did not deem it worthy of any supplemental discipline. While the league let its opinion be known with that decision, many other folks have let their opinions fly regarding the hit by Cooke, who has earned quite the reputation as a dirty player throughout his career.
But one man who expressed no interest in sharing his opinion was Bruins head coach Claude Julien, who seemingly didn’t want to provide any motivational material for Pittsburgh to harp on when he spoke on Sunday afternoon.
“I think no matter what I say here, everybody will have their opinion,” Julien said. “If you’re a Pittsburgh fan, it’s the Bruins’ fault. If you’re a Bruins fan, it’s the 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.”
In those four short sentences, Julien essentially summed up the essence of sports fandom while removing himself and his own opinion from the equation.
In fact, Julien seemed to indicate that McQuaid’s body position was at least partly responsible for the violence of the collision. Julien has made similar comments about players in the past, so he was sure not to appear hypocritical this weekend.
“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,” Julien said. “I’m not talking necessarily about [Saturday] night — I’m talking about those kind of things that are happening. Because the rule says you can’t hit somebody from behind. Sometimes [players] take advantage of that rule, and it’s dangerous. 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. I’ve been an advocate of that a long time, and I still believe in it.”
Julien did eventually offer an opinion on the hit, saying he thought it was a penalty but not necessarily a suspendable hit. Considering Matt Cooke felt similarly, that’s a comment from the Bruins’ coach that won’t be creating any circus heading into Game 2.