Cooke says Penguins shouldn't be counted out when playoffs begin
ST. PAUL, Minn. — Matt Cooke is full of wisdom these days.
He is a changed man, no longer hockey's bad boy, and he loves his role as mentor for a Minnesota Wild team battling to reach the Stanley Cup playoffs.
His thoughts, though, still drift back to Pittsburgh. He had a message for the rest of the Eastern Conference playoff field Saturday.
“You can never count out the Penguins,” Cooke said.
The 35-year-old veteran knows Boston has emerged as the favorite to win the Eastern Conference. Cooke knows all about the Bruins. They ended his Pittsburgh career in June, sweeping the favored Penguins in the Eastern Conference final.
He also knows the Penguins might be on cruise control and are flirting with becoming the Atlanta Braves of the 1990s: the would-be dynasty that produced only one championship.
Still, Cooke believes in his old mates.
“Systematically, the way they play, and when you add the talent that that organization has, they have a chance,” he said. “It's a credit to the ownership and the management they have in place there.”
The third line has been a shell of itself without Cooke, who manned its left wing for five seasons with the Penguins.
He explained how he became such a steady bottom-six producer.
“Ask any third- or fourth-line guy, and they want to be a scorer,” Cooke said. “The biggest thing for me was understanding at a young age that there aren't teams made up of four scoring lines. I always wanted to give the team energy, be a physical presence. You take pride in that.”
Cooke still takes pride in the relationship he possesses with many Penguins.
“(Pascal Dupuis) and I are close,” Cooke said. “(Kris Letang) and I are close. I stay in touch with (Sidney Crosby). There are a lot of guys I still talk with. That comes with winning. There's a bond there that will last forever.”
Cooke also played for the Vancouver Canucks and Washington Capitals, but he said games against the Penguins feel different.
“There is always emotion involved when you play an ex-team,” he said. “But when I look back at my old games against Vancouver, it doesn't quite have that level of excitement.”
Cooke became a controversial figure in Pittsburgh and the poster boy for NHL discipline. The Penguins worked with Cooke to help the Belleville, Ontario, native improve himself on and off the ice.
He has taken his new approach to Minnesota, where he has become a vital member of the Wild. Cooke said that, while teammates in Pittsburgh respected him, almost all of them won a Stanley Cup for the first time in 2009. They did it together. Now, playing on a Wild team that has enjoyed little postseason success, Cooke has become the wise veteran players ask questions.
He's all too happy to provide answers.
“We got exactly what we were hoping for,” said Minnesota coach Mike Yeo, who pushed for the Wild to sign Cooke to a three-year deal last summer. Yeo was an assistant coach when the Penguins won the Stanley Cup in 2009.
“We got leadership,” Yeo said. “We knew there were a lot of intangibles with Cookie. It's what he does in the locker room. We've got a very young team. He's been a big help to those young players.”
Yeo said he expects Cooke to thrive in the playoffs, noting that he always was a strong playoff performer with the Penguins.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Penguins’ Lovejoy embracing defensive pairing with Pouliot
- Penguins notebook: Road trip increases in difficulty
- Crosby, Malkin chase scoring title amid defense-minded league
- Penguins notebook: Crosby says he would play goal if needed
- Under Rutherford, it’s been a sizeable shakeup for Penguins
- Penguins need trade-deadline acquisitions to bring toughness
- Crosby fights, Penguins lose to Blue Jackets
- Penguins eye move for former center Staal
- Starkey: Penguins not mortgaging future
- Penguins forwards struggle in loss to Avalanche
- Penguins notebook: Pouliot dazzles in victory over Blue Jackets