BOSTON – It was surprising to see/hear Blues head coach Craig Berube complain about the officiating between Games 3 and 4 of the Stanley Cup Final given the kind of physical, envelope-pushing style that St. Louis has employed throughout the postseason.
It’s been even more surprising to see the NHL seemingly bend over backwards to appease Berube in the last couple of games, as the Bruins have been awarded only a handful of power plays while the Blues continue to smash the B’s in the face.
There was Ivan Barbashev's elbow to the head of Marcus Johansson that went uncalled in the first period and set the tone for everything else to come in Boston’s 2-1 loss in Game 5 at TD Garden on Thursday night. (Barbashev will have a hearing on Friday)
Then there was Zach Sanford drilling Torey Krug in the head in the second period, with no penalty called. And Alex Pietrangelo holding on to Krug’s arm for nearly five seconds on a play that opened up a scoring chance for the Blues, requiring David Krejci to jump in front of the goal to block a shot with his chest.
But the coup de grace for the Bruins was Tyler Bozak kicking Noel Acciari's legs out from under him while the B's forward had the puck. There was no tripping call on the play, as the Blues gained possession and immediately capitalized on David Perron's game-winning goal. In a Stanley Cup Playoff where blown calls have been the hot topic for hockey debate, the way things unfolded in Game 5 was unfortunately appropriate.
“That’s a penalty every time. There’s no ifs, ands, or buts about it," Torey Krug said. "I’m all for letting us play, but when it leads to scoring chances and the opposing team ends up with the puck, it should be going our way. It should be a penalty. They [the officials] missed one there, I think.”
The NHL Director of Officiating Stephen Walkom released a comment to a pool reporter following the game that essentially just told people to deal with it.
"We don't make comments on judgment calls within games," Walkom said. "There are hundreds of judgment calls in every game. The official on the play, he viewed it and he didn't view it as a penalty at the time."
Truth be told, Walkom should have been forced to step out to center ice and read that statement in front of the 16,000-plus Garden fans who forked over thousands of dollars to attend a Stanley Cup Final game, and then watched 60 minutes of blown calls and whistle swallowing where the officiating shouldn’t have been the first topic of discussion afterward.
The whole situation left a Bruins dressing room full of pissed off players who couldn’t understand how a series could be officiated differently after one complaint from the Blues coaching staff. They also couldn’t understand how a crew of officials could miss a blatant tripping call that led directly to the game-winning goal.
But then again, this is the same group of referees that missed the puck hit the netting in Columbus, missed a clear hand pass for the Sharks' overtime game-winner in St. Louis and won’t call another major penalty in these Stanley Cup Playoffs after butchering one badly in the Sharks/Golden Knights series.
“The narrative changed after Game 3. There was a complaint or whatever put forth by the opposition and it just seemed to change everything," head coach Bruce Cassidy said. "The non-call on [Noel] Acciari, their player is on his way to the box, it’s right in front of the official, it’s a slew foot. Our guy is gone. The [concussion] spotter took him out of the game for a possible concussion. It’s blatant and a big effect on the game."
What was the talk on the bench after the missed tripping call on Acciari led to the Perron goal and a 2-0 lead for the Blues?
“What was being said on the bench was that you missed an F-ing call, is what was being said on the bench, for obvious reasons," Cassidy said.
"After that we had to settle down and play. We thought we got screwed but you got to keep playing and we did. We scored the next goal and gave ourselves a chance to win. We tried to rally around that moving forward."
The NHL has a mess on its hands and has two more Stanley Cup Final games to clean it up and change the conversation. Right now the focus is still on the shaky level of officiating in the playoffs and the blown calls, non-calls and catcalls from the fans that have hung like a cloud over the entire Stanley Cup Playoffs.
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