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NHL Playoffs: Retaliation not best idea for Avs’

USA TODAY Sports Colorado Avalanche forward Cody McLeod, left, confronts Minnesota Wild forward Matt Cooke during the first period of Game Three of a first-round Stanley Cup playoffs series on Monday at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.

The Boogeyman must be laughing in that big penalty box in the sky.

Wild vs. Avalanche a rough series? Puh-leeze. Even by today’s tame, Eurohockey-style standards, this has been a relatively lightweight playoff affair. And that’s not an indictment. We have two speedy teams doing what they do best. The only difference is that they aren’t turning away and avoiding contact the way they do during the regular season.

After watching 82 games of on-ice politeness, fans are awestruck by the sight of bodies colliding; so it seems like more than it is, and everyone is all wound up about the “physical play” of the postseason.

“I think it’s about normal,” Stephane Veilleux said. “I’ve played in some series in the past that were more physical than this. But sometimes there are series that are more about stick on puck.”

As opposed to stick on head.

“If you look at their group over there, they’ve got a lot of skilled guys who aren’t necessarily known for being overly physical,” said Kyle Brodziak. “And we’re kind of the same thing. We’ve got a lot of guys who can skate. I don’t think throughout the year we’ve been known to be an overly physical team.

“I think it’s tough to change your game, especially in the playoffs. Because then you start doing things that are uncharacteristic. It hasn’t felt overly physical, but that’s something that can always change.”

Which brings us to the Matt Cooke incident. Cooke’s knee-on-knee hit of Tyson Barrie wasn’t the most sinister play of the postseason. That probably belongs to Brent Seabrook for his attempted decapitation of David Backes, or to Milan Lucic for his groin spear of Danny Dekeyser. Unfortunately for Colorado, Cooke’s hit yielded the worst possible results, knocking Barrie out of the playoffs.

The question is: Where do we go from here? As recently as 2007, all hell broke loose after a similar incident in a Wild playoff game. (More on that shortly.) From this point, the Avalanche can justifiably corner the market on righteous indignation. Will there be any sort of attempt at retribution?

The Wild most certainly would be delighted by those prospects. Want to mix it up? Heck yes, bring it on. Because that would mean the Avalanche are off their speed game and concentrating on something else. And if that were to happen and Minnesota were to win the series, Matt Cooke still might be named MVP.

The Wild have been where the Avs are now — victims of foul play that put one of their guys in the hospital and out of the playoffs. And it occurred just a few years ago, in genteel 2007. That’s after the NHL already had turned soft. The Wild did not handle it well.

In the first round against Anaheim, during a scrum near the net, the Ducks’ Brad May skated up behind the Wild’s Kim Johnsson, Minnesota’s best offensive defenseman, and jumped him. Johnsson, a nonfighter, couldn’t even defend himself and was kayoed out of the series. The mugging, which occurred near center ice, far from the scrum, was ugly and a lot of angry talk ensued, including Derek Boogaard famously referring to May as “Mush Head.”

Veilleux, who played in that series, recalled the Johnsson incident.

“When Brad May punched him out,” he said, nodding. “I think it was in Game No. 4 if I remember. It was in Minnesota here. You never know when these moments happen.”

Jacques Lemaire, who deplored that sort of cheap hockey, nevertheless tried to keep his players concentrating on the task at hand. Yet even though May was suspended, the Wild were enraged. And in Anaheim, during warm-ups for Game 5, a still seething Boogaard got into it with Ducks tough guy George Parros and we had a 40-player scrum before the opening faceoff.

Then the game started and the Wild, emotionally drained, were dispatched rather easily, 4-1.

As a footnote to the Wild-Ducks story, Boogaard and May eventually settled the issue by duking it out early the following season. It wasn’t as one-sided as you might imagine because May was a tough old buzzard. Still, the exclamation point finally was put at the end of the sentence.

So it will be interesting to see what happens next in this series. If the Avalanche want to hurry up and settle matters, I’m sure the Wild would be thrilled to oblige. Anything to get Colorado off its game — so bring it on! Or maybe the Avs won’t have to learn the lesson that the Wild learned in 2007:

Stuff happens in the playoffs, and it’s best not to look in the rearview mirror.