Focus is on poor officiating in these Cup playoffs, and that's bad news

Focus is on poor officiating in these Cup playoffs, and that's bad news

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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Jakub Lauko ready to be 'humble & prepared' for Bruins training camp

USA TODAY Sports Photo

Jakub Lauko ready to be 'humble & prepared' for Bruins training camp

It wasn’t a slam dunk that 19-year-old Bruins prospect Jakub Lauko was going to play in the QMJHL this past season.

In fact, Lauko admitted he had a lot of reservations when it was first discussed that the best move for the Czech winger would be to come over for North American junior hockey where he could begin to adjust away from the European game.

Lauko wanted to go right to the AHL in Providence after scoring a couple of goals early in his first NHL training camp before suffering an injury in a collision during camp practice with Noel Acciari. Clearly it was the right move for the teenager to head instead to junior hockey for his development, though, and that’s the way things played out for him in a year where he got better as things went along.

It still was tough as Lauko adjusted to a different language and culture over the course of the hockey season, but the top B’s forward prospect had zero regrets when it was all over with this summer.

Lauko didn’t skate at all in Bruins development camp a few weeks ago because his junior season had just wrapped up after Rouyn-Noranda made it all the way to the Memorial Cup, but the Bruins prospect says that his experience in Quebec ended up making him a better player. It also showed him to be a big game player as he led the way with his eight points (two goals, six assists) in the five games it took Rouyn-Noranda to hoist the Memorial Cup.

“I hated it for the first month,” said Lauko, who was playing through a lower body injury toward the end of his team’s postseason run. “But at the end of the season, you just look up and see that you won two trophies. It was the right choice after that. I think I changed a lot as a player. I improved my English, and I think I’m a different player after this season, different person. I’m just happy I made the choice.”

“It was a really big experience for me, through the regular season, playoffs and to the Cup. It was hell of a ride for us and I really enjoyed it. Just happy to have two trophies over my head after.”

He was always pretty good to begin as evidenced by his standout performance at last summer’s development camp, and in last fall’s Bruins rookie training camp as well. The 6-foot-1, 172-pounder has speed, tenacity and goal-scoring ability as evidenced by his 21 goals and 41 points in 43 games for the Huskies during the regular season. Then he poured on six more goals and 13 points in 19 games during the Memorial Cup playoffs and showed off the skill that got him drafted.

Now Lauko heads into his second NHL training camp one year bigger, stronger and more mature in his hockey game. Will he finally get his wish to be in either Boston or Providence this fall where he’s already shown some of the hard-nosed and skilled traits he’ll need to eventually stick at the NHL level?

"I think he came in last year and had a good training camp, he did a real good job of coming over to North America and adjusting a little bit. It was a little bit of a challenge early on. Tough going into Northern Quebec learning English and French at the same time to a degree,” said Bruins Player Development Coordinator Jamie Langenbrunner. “It was tough living-wise for him early on, but his game continued to grow and he played his best hockey at the end of the year. That's what we were hoping for. We will see when September and October comes with him."

Certainly the Bruins could use another top-6 or top-9 winger after they never replaced the departing Marcus Johansson, but it has to be considered a longshot for Lauko with more finished prospect products like Anders Bjork, Peter Cehlarik and Zach Senyshyn in the running for any vacant forward spots.

Whether it’s next season or a couple of years down the road, however, it’s beginning to feel like Lauko is going to be in Boston sooner rather than later. And he will make an impact with his two-way game when he finally does arrive after the Bruins selected him in the third round (77thoverall) in last summer’s NHL Draft.

“It’s hard to say (where I will play this season),” said Lauko, who signed his entry-level deal with the Bruins at the tail end of training camp last fall. “I will go into the year and just try to find a spot in Boston. You never know what’s going to happen. I will just stay positive and whatever happens is going to happen.

"I will just arrive here humble and prepared. I will try to fight for a spot here. If it will not go well, just keep working and try to fight for a spot during the season and next seasons.”

Lauko certainly has the right attitude and he’s got the goods as far as his game goes on the ice. Everybody will just have to wait a few months to see if the 19-year-old has matured enough to the point where he could use those electric skills and tenacity to challenge for a B’s roster spot at a precocious young age.

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Bruins forwards Chris Wagner, Charlie Coyle celebrate five-year anniversary of the Ice Bucket Challenge

Bruins forwards Chris Wagner, Charlie Coyle celebrate five-year anniversary of the Ice Bucket Challenge

In 2014, the Ice Bucket Challenge came into existence. The challenge, inspired by former Boston College baseball player Pete Frates and his counterpart Pat Quinn, involves a participant dumping a bucket of ice water on their head while being filmed. During the video, the participant nominates others to join the challenge or forfeit and give a charitable donation to ALS research causes. The challenge was created to build awareness for ALS.

Quickly, the Internet embraced the Ice Bucket Challenge challenge and seemingly everyone was doing it, from average everyday people to Kermit the Frog to Boston-based sports teams. And the challenge reared its head once again on Monday.

On July 15, 2019, a revival of the Ice Bucket Challenge to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the viral sensation took place at Copley Square. And a couple of current members of the Boston Bruins, Chris Wagner and Charlie Coyle, were on hand and spoke about what the challenge meant to them.

"Obviously, it's just such a great cause," Wagner said per the Bruins official Twitter account. "It's a terrible disease. I've seen a lot of people affected by it. You know, family and friends too. Just to be here in support... it's easy for us and the whole thing goes a long way to raising some money."

Meanwhile, Coyle recalled actually doing the ice bucket challenge in his Weymouth-based home and bonding with his friends and family over the event.

"I did it in my backyard with my sister," Coyle said. "It was a lot of fun. And you get to nominate some of your friends, get them involved and it just keeps getting passed on. Like I said, it was just a fun way to do it. Everyone had a good time with it and it was a great idea by these guys."

It's nice to see that Wagner and Coyle are offering their support of this locally-based cause, especially given their Massachusetts-based roots.

And, of course, it was fun to see them participate in the challenge once again, which you can check out at the end of the video below, courtesy of the Bruins Twitter account.

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