Bruins

Bruins are again Exhibit A of why the offside coach's challenge needs revamping

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Bruins are again Exhibit A of why the offside coach's challenge needs revamping

BRIGHTON, Mass – Have you had enough of the NHL Coach’s Challenge yet?

Most teams across the NHL have been burned by the vague, fickle nature of the coach’s challenge system set up by the league, and it goes doubly so for the offside challenge that so often seems to have nothing to do with the good goal in question.

That was the case Tuesday night in the Bruins' 5-4 loss to the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre in Montreal as a Charlie Coyle apparent go-ahead goal scored in the third period was wiped out by an offside challenge that was two-pronged in its complete irrelevance to the score. Coyle was in control of the puck between his legs as he entered the offensive zone, so by the letter of the law he was actually, legally on-side based on being in control of the puck as he entered the zone with his skates slightly ahead of the puck.

It took the on-ice officials upwards of three minutes chatting with the Situation Room in Toronto before they came up with a decision to overturn the good goal called on the ice, so it was clear from the beginning that it wasn’t an egregious, clear-cut offside play.

Which is exactly what the coach’s challenge was intended for in the first place.  

All of the above was something that NHL leading scorer David Pastrnak picked up on when asked about it after the fact.

“When you have the puck under your control, you can skate backward with the puck [entering the zone], right? You can be out of the zone and still not be offside. We’re NHL players, so when you have the puck on your skates it’s pretty much under your control. It’s a tough call,” said Pastrnak, who has 15 goals in 15 games to start the season. “We are not referees...but this is the NHL. We are all skilled players here. Once you have the puck on your skate, it’s pretty much under your control and it doesn’t matter if the puck is behind the blue line first or not. I think it wasn’t offside, but it’s just a tough call and there’s nothing we can do about it.”

Then there’s the fact that, as has happened already on two other occasions with the Bruins this season, the goal was scored a significant amount of time following the actual zone entry. It wasn’t as long a gap as the two previous occasions, at Colorado and at home against Ottawa, when the goal was scored 30 seconds or more after the offside play in question that had absolutely zero to do with the actual goal.

Instead, it was 10 seconds or so following the zone entry, but again it had nothing to do with the goal being scored. At that point, the Bruins had the puck in the offensive zone, had time to lose possession down low briefly and then Zach Senyshyn recovered the puck and wheeled around before finding Coyle in the slot for the prime scoring chance.

"Some are going to go your way and some are not. Ours are not going our way lately, but I assume they’re going to straighten out over the course of time. The rule was specifically put in place for egregious [examples],” Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said after the game. “They were over there for three minutes. You think 'What's the purpose of this rule?' Either you find something or you don't...three minutes. So, now you're looking for something to be offsides.

“You know it’s going to go the other way and it did. That’s where my beef comes from, the intent of the rule. You always want them to get it right, but there was kind of a change this summer punishing the coaches if they got it wrong for this reason. They didn’t want three-minute reviews. Anyway, it was a big part of the game and it didn’t go our way.”

The bottom line is that the coach’s challenge for offside was put into place for obvious offside plays rather than gray area instances like Coyle’s play in Montreal. Some of it is certainly the law of unintended consequences coming into play with the advent of instant replay turning every little play into an agonizing Zapruder film study where nobody quite knows what is truly legal or illegal anymore, including the officials on the ice.

The truth is that the NHL wants offense. They want goal-scoring. They want exciting end-to-end action that highlights the skill of the players on the ice, and they have no problem with high-scoring games such as the B's-Hab's nine-goal outburst in Montreal.

So, they shouldn’t be looking for reasons to take good goals off the board as they did when they wiped out Boston’s apparent go-ahead score in the third period and effectively changed the outcome of the game. Put a time limit on when an offside can be challenged, and outlaw challenging a play where the goal was scored 15 seconds after the zone entry.

Furthermore, get the officials together and decide, once and for all, that a puck in between the skates of an NHL player is a puck that the player is actually in control of, and can legally enter the offensive zone as Coyle did.

The NHL is a great league full of great players, but it’s even better when the league gets out of the way of itself. It’s pretty hard to do that with the nonsensical way that the offside coach’s challenge is currently set up. Anybody that follows the Bruins knows there are easy fixes that could make the challenge system so much better than it is right now.

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It's absurd people are worried about Bruins after losing glorified exhibition games

It's absurd people are worried about Bruins after losing glorified exhibition games

The panic level for Bruins fans entering this week’s playoff round after an admittedly limp performance in the round-robin games is bordering on the absurd.

There’s no doubting the B’s put pretty much zero import into the results during the three round-robin games against the Flyers, Lightning and Capitals, but instead focused on two things:

A) Building their game over the two weeks leading into the real Stanley Cup Playoffs.

B) Staying healthy headed into the games that actually matter after watching Victor Hedman potentially go down with an injury for the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The Bruins averaged a paltry 1.33 goals per game in the round robins and went a putrid 0-for-9 power play, and the Perfection Line managed just a single point between Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak in the three round-robin games. But they accomplished the two main goals they had in round-robin games they comically viewed as “preseason games” rather than playoff games that count as such in the NHL record books.

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Brad Marchand said as much when asked about the round-robin games following Monday’s practice in the Toronto bubble.

“Collectively, we just have to improve with each game. With the way it was set up, it’s not like it was the playoffs and it was do-or-die. Obviously, each game [moving forward] means a lot more. The pride and the willingness to do the extra things that maybe we weren’t doing during preseason [will be there],” said Marchand.

“What we’ve gone through the last four games doesn’t mean anything. Those were preseason games. Let’s call it what it is, those [round robin] games were exhibition games for the playoffs. We were in the same position as other teams and it was hard to have the same mentality as a playoff series.”

Full disclosure, this humble hockey writer is getting a kick out of panicked fans going all Chicken Little about the Bruins pretty much sucking in the round robin. They may feel pretty silly once the President’s Trophy-winning B’s show up for the real playoffs starting Tuesday night against the Hurricanes.

The bottom line: Absolutely nobody is going to be talking about the round-robin results a couple of weeks from now in a scenario where seeding doesn’t even really matter.

The B's clearly didn’t care about the round-robin games and said as much publicly and privately as a veteran hockey club that knows they had nothing to prove aside from getting ready for what’s next. The Blues did the same thing in the West, so it’s pretty instructive the two teams that made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final last summer had absolutely no use for these glorified exhibition games.

Conversely, it makes sense that a team like the young, eager Flyers dominated the round robin. They have something to prove after getting back into the postseason this year, and their young, skilled group will ultimately be tested in the real playoff games.

Now the Bruins have a path in the Eastern Conference where they’ll face Carolina in the first round, potentially see the Flyers in the second round and might put off a difficult playoff series with Washington or Tampa until the Eastern Conference Finals based on being the No. 4 seed.

That’s actually as good as it could have worked out for the Black and Gold.

They stayed healthy, worked on what they needed to in practice and steadily improved their play as they went along. Their best performance was the Sunday loss to the Capitals in the round-robin finale where Braden Holtby stood on his head. That was their goal.

Getting mad about them treating round-robin games like the preseason is kind of missing the point when they’ve got much bigger fish to fry with a Stanley Cup window that’s quickly closing.

The other absurd fallacy is that a team like the Bruins can’t “flip a switch” and just turn it on once the actual Stanley Cup Playoffs begin.

How about just last season when the B's lost four of their last seven games, got whacked by the Lightning twice and the Perfection Line was playing awful hockey at the very end of the regular season?

Everybody assumed the Bruins were doomed to lose to the Lightning in the second round of the playoffs and instead they pushed all the way to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final. It certainly felt like they “flipped the switch” with a veteran group when it was put up or shut up time in the postseason, didn’t it?

The Bruins might even struggle a bit in the first period of Game 1 on Tuesday night as they acclimatize to the win-or-go-home intensity Carolina played with in the qualifying round series against the Rangers. There was no way to replicate that in the round robin.  

But anybody who thinks the real Bruins aren’t going to show up in the real playoffs after coasting through the round robin hasn’t really watched how this proven, grizzled Bruins team operates over the last 10 years. It’s too bad because you’re missing a pretty good hockey team that’s got a full tank of gas headed into another Stanley Cup playoff run.

Rangers win 2020 NHL Draft lottery, chance to select Alexis Lafreniere

Rangers win 2020 NHL Draft lottery, chance to select Alexis Lafreniere

The New York Rangers will have the No. 1 overall selection in this year's NHL Draft.

They were the winners of Monday night's draft lottery, which means they'll have the chance to select highly touted prospect Alexis Lafreniere.


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The Rangers finished the regular season with 79 points and were swept by the Carolina Hurricanes -- the Boston Bruins' first-round playoff opponent -- in their qualifying round series.

Lafrenière, 18, is almost unanimously considered the obvious pick at No. 1. While the Rangers are already in pretty good shape at left wing, it'll be hard to pass up the opportunity to draft a generational talent.

The NHL Draft is scheduled to take place Oct. 9.