Craig Berube

Cassidy: 'I'm not worried about the officials at all' in Game 7

Cassidy: 'I'm not worried about the officials at all' in Game 7

BOSTON – There has been all kinds of chatter about officiating, penalty calls and not-so-subtle comments being thrown out there to influence the referees in this Stanley Cup Final series between the Bruins and the Blues.

Obviously, there have been blown calls as well like the non-call on Tyler Bozak tripping Noel Acciari at the end of Game 5 that led directly to the winning goal for the St. Louis Blues. Certainly, there’s been a lot of quotes from St. Louis coach Craig Berube not agreeing with all of the calls against the Blues and that the worry about penalties or suspensions held his Blues players back a little bit in their Game 6 loss at the Enterprise Center.

Still, Bruce Cassidy on his end said he wasn’t worried about the officials as Chris Rooney and Gord Dwyer return for Game 7 at TD Garden after officiating without any major incidents in Games 2, 4 and 6. The Bruins lost two of those games, of course, but that is neither here nor there after Kelly Sutherland blew the tripping call in Game 5.

“I said it before these officials are here for a reason, they’re judged to be the best. I’ve voiced my opinion with some calls I’ve disagreed with, so I expect they’ll be good,” said Cassidy. “They’ll call what they see tonight and hopefully it’s a good clean game from them, hopefully, it’s a good game from both teams. Like I said, I just want our team to be the team that executes better.

“That’s our goal tonight is to do the things you’re supposed to win the game, so I’m not worried about the officials at all.”

The worry, of course, is that the Blues won’t have a lot of disincentive to taking runs at the Bruins given that any suspensions will be handed out for next season, and that the on-ice officials have been loathe to call any five-minute major penalties since the Joe Pavelski incident in the first-round Sharks-Golden Knights series. 

Given that Rooney and Dwyer aren’t likely to call more than a couple of penalties in a Game 7 where the league wants the players to decide things on the ice, that leaves a lot of room for the Blues to potentially take liberties after already getting a couple of players suspended in this Stanley Cup Final series.

As with anything, however, the Bruins are going to need to play through all of that and persevere, if they want to be holding up the Stanley Cup at the end of the night with a winner-take-all game on tap.

 

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Is Craig Berube sending a Game 7 message he wants Blues to run Bruins players?

Is Craig Berube sending a Game 7 message he wants Blues to run Bruins players?

BOSTON – Once again St. Louis Blues head coach Craig Berube is sending messages through the media leading into a winner-take-all Game 7 against the Bruins for the Stanley Cup.

The words are coming off a 5-1 win for the B’s in Game 6 where Boston exploded for four goals in the third period and the Blues didn’t have the same physical edge they showed at times throughout the best-of-seven series. Not so coincidentally, the Blues also didn’t have a player suspended in the wake of the game for only the fourth time in the six Cup Final games played thus far leading into Wednesday night’s Game 7.

The Blues are already the first team in Stanley Cup Final history to have a pair of players suspended in the NHL’s showcase event. Oskar Sundqvist was given a one-game suspension for running Matt Grzelcyk from behind at the beginning of the series, and Ivan Barbashev had to sit for a game after throwing a head shot at Marcus Johansson in the opening minutes of Game 5.  

Now it seems that Berube is actively encouraging the Blues to get back to that level of dirty hits designed to injure players as the Blues bench boss lamented the lack of physicality from his team in the Game 6 loss on home ice.

“I think we can be more physical than we were last game. That will help in penalty killing. Just being the player that [Ivan Barbashev] is, that line, we can use them against anybody and they can do the job,” said Berube, when asked about Barbashev drawing back into the lineup after serving his one-game suspension in Game 6. “Who knows what goes on, what goes through guys' heads, things like that?

“A lot of times you just don't get there in time to make the contact. You don't want to chase it, but when it's there, you're on your toes. I think a lot of it personally, just watching the game today, our puck placement wasn't great to make the hits, things like that. Also, too, I mean, maybe it runs through their head they don't want to take a penalty, making a bad hit. We got to be aggressive. That's our style. That's the way we have success.”

On the surface Berube is saying that his Blues team can be more physical than they were in Game 6, but it also sounds like he’s tacitly giving the green light for his players to pin their ears back and “be aggressive” without fear of penalties holding them back.

After all, what does a suspension for next season matter to a desperate Blues team as they enter a Game 7 for all the marbles on Wednesday night?

Adding even less of a deterrent, the NHL has shown a complete unwillingness to call an in-game major penalty in these Stanley Cup Playoffs dating back to the first round when the call on Joe Pavelski completely changed the direction of the San Jose Sharks/Vegas Golden Knights first-round playoff series.

So what downside is there for the Blues to start running Bruins players to take them out of a decisive Game 7, and then next season go ahead and pay whatever supplemental discipline tab comes due?

Series-long targets like Charlie McAvoy, Torey Krug, David Pastrnak and Marcus Johansson will have to watch their backs, and it feels like on-ice awareness will be key for every Bruins player. 

Surely the B's realize all of this headed into a Game 7 scenario where they have plenty of past experience, and it will be a part of a game plan where the Bruins power play will need to make the Blues pay dearly should they cross the line with bad hits and worse intent.  

One thing is for sure. It’s been eight years since there’s been a Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Final and this one is setting up to be a nasty piece of business between a pair of hockey clubs that have engaged in serious battle over the first six games.

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Bruins on Game 4 officiating: 'That's not the way the whole playoffs were for us'

Bruins on Game 4 officiating: 'That's not the way the whole playoffs were for us'

ST. LOUIS – The Bruins recognized that things were a little different in Game 4. After a competitive first three games where penalties were called a certain way and the Blues deservedly had their share of infractions given just how physically they were playing, the officials simply stopped calling anything a penalty that wasn’t forced on them.

St. Louis threw 40-plus hits in their 4-2 win at the Enterprise Center and the only penalties called against them were a delay of game on a puck over the glass and a high-sticking call when a stick caught Charlie Coyle up high. They were automatic calls that needed to be made, but other than that it was a “let the boys play” kind of night. That’s certainly okay if it’s called the same both ways in any given Stanley Cup Final game, and the Bruins should have to prove they can beat the Blues in 5-on-5 play if they want to be champs.

Still, it was striking to the Bruins how differently the game was called as compared to the rest of the series when the B’s had 14 power-play chances in the first three games.

“I don’t know. There was this comment to the refs about them being this angelic team about not taking penalties all playoffs, and then all of a sudden the whistles are put away,” said David Backes. “We’ll keep playing through the stuff. They’re doing it and we need to find the goals any way that we know how too. I felt like there were less calls. No question. I think that the statistics are going to show there were less power plays on each side.

“It’s kind of more of what you’d be expecting going into the final, but that’s not the way the whole playoffs were for us. I don’t know why that would change now. We’ll see. We just need to keep playing our game for 60 minutes and let the chips fall where they may.”

The timing was also striking as Blues coach Craig Berube had complained through the media about the number of penalty calls against St. Louis after they were the least penalized team in the first three rounds of the playoffs. Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy hoped that Berube’s not-so-subtle public comments didn’t have anything to do with the refs opting to swallow their whistles in an ultra-physical Game 4 where Alex Pietrangelo choke-slammed David Backes to the ice at one point without a batting of the eyelash from the zebras.

“You’ve got the best refs [in the Stanley Cup Final], they go through the process like teams do, right? They get evaluated and they’re here because they’ve been the best throughout, so I would expect that they wouldn’t get baited into somebody’s comments,” said Cassidy. “They should be better than that, if they did. I certainly didn’t expect them to, they should have a degree of professionalism, call the calls they see. That’s why the night before, I found it odd, we killed five power plays, we scored on our four, one was in the last minute so it’s inconsequential. One was on them that they got called for, it wasn’t an infraction, they got called for a bench minor for a challenge of an offside. So, really there’s a couple that they can look at that affected the game, I think one in the first period, one in the second. I think it was a bit of a ruse. Hopefully, they didn’t get caught up into it.

“Going into last night, I think the call on [Connor] Clifton was a head-scratcher. [Vladimir] Tarasenko went to reverse hit him and I don’t think there was any contact to the head at all other than his own head maybe, him leading with it. I don’t know where that call came from. That’s the only one I was unhappy with. There’s also some that go either way that they could call. It’s hard to nitpick through every [penalty]. So that’s my thought on that. At the end of the day, we didn’t play well enough to win, we know that. We killed the penalties that we were called on and scored a shorthanded goal.”

Clearly, Berube critiqued the officiating with the hope that the series would become less of a special-teams contest and that would favor the Blues looking to play at even strength. The strategy worked in St. Louis' Game 4 win and has left the Bruins to wonder how things are going to be called in a pivotal Game 5 on Thursday night in Boston when both teams are going to be at their highest battle level in the series.

 

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