Forensic investigations, red scarfs, a columnist and his private area? All of this went down in Ottawa last night as the Pittsburgh Penguins walked into a circus at Scotiabank Place.
The crowd was ready to boo and verbally abuse Matt Cooke, whose accidental hit on Erik Karlsson resulted in a sliced achilles tendon. It was an atmosphere created by Senators owner Eugene Melnyk, who took it upon himself to go "CSI" on Cooke and prove his guilt through a forensic investigation. Yes, the owner. Canada's crazier version of Mark Cuban.
As the evening continued, the atmosphere seemed to affect everyone in the great white north's capital city.
You already had the "Red Scarf Union," a very intimidating fan club name that must make "The Black Hole" in Oakland shake in their boots, leading the charge of the hate fest.
Assistant captain Chris Neil, who took offense to what happened to Karlsson back in February, looked to reel Cooke into a fight. It didn't work and after Neil said hello to the Penguins resident goon Steve McIntyre and backed down, things began to calm down. The trumpet guy was an exception. Kept tooting his horn until the final one at the end of the game.
Chris Neil took what anyone would consider a cheap shot on Simon Despres. The Ottawa Senators twitter account didn't see it that way. They actually pronounced Neil a #LocalHero and decided to make train noses in their hashtags. Did Melynk hijack the account last night?
It took Ottawa a while to start playing as a team, but too little too late as they lost to the Penguins B-Team 3-1, in a game where it was critical to get two points. Instead the Senators bought into the hype that their owner created and in the end, they could find themselves having a harder road to the Stanley Cup, and most likely playing a healthy Penguins squad in the first round a week from now.
After the game, you would've thought the Matt Cooke shots would stop. Well, one Ottawa columnist, Don Brennan, thought it was appropriate to bring attention to an issue bothering him, regarding what Cooke had to say about his privates. You know, because we expect sports columnists to write about that. Then again, the Ottawa Sun is about as professional as The Enquirer. Anything to grab the readers attention and get us to click on the link. Which we did, and we are ashamed we gave their site a hit.
I think Josh Yohe, one of the Penguins beat writers, summed it up best as the day ended in Ottawa.
It was probably the Brennan column that tops off the "bizarre" day Yohe and other Penguin writers had in Ottawa.
So to sum it up. The Senators forgot about what was most important: Winning the game. Instead they bought into the Red Scarf Brigade and Eugene Melnyk's arranging of a "Matt Cooke Hate Fest." Of all the people in an organization, you would think that the owner would have one of the cooler heads in a situation that has been a scab Melnyk has picked at for over two months? Nope, instead he kept bringing it up.
If the Senators miss the playoffs, everyone will look back at this game from Monday and say that's where everything came apart in the final week. Melnyk won't take any heat. Bryan Murray and Paul MacLean will be there to take all the criticism for the Sens collapse if it were to happen.
When Eugene Melnyk gets the results back from the lab, tell him to give me a call. I'll be standing by with David Caruso.