By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
I think we can all agree that it would have been nice for the Bruins to have generated more than 13 shots on goal against the Bolts' Andrei Vasilevskiy at five-on-five play, yes. And if the Bruins put their first shot on goal sometime before the 15-minute mark of the opening frame, that'd be swell. It also would have been great had Tuukka Rask not committed himself to the Thriller move on Tyler Johnson's second-period goal. None of this should be disputed.
But when analyzing Monday's Game 2 loss in Tampa, which sends this second-round series back to Boston tied 1-1, it's impossible to ignore the downright scary ineptitude of an 'officiating' crew led by Kelly Sutherland.
I understand what you're going to say: Blaming the referees is basically the ultimate loser's lament, and they're simply excuses. The Bruins shouldn't ever bank on help from the officials to win games; you have to fight through it, yada yada yada. I'm aware of all these things. But there's simply no doubt that they played a factor in this game.
And not in a good way.
It began in the first period when your regular, playoff-style post-whistle hockey scrum led to David Backes getting a double-minor opposed to the single minor handed to Cedric Paquette. I've watched the sequence about four times and still cannot for the life of me figure out what Backes did that's different from what anybody else in that pile did.
Tampa Bay felt similar confusion when Johnson was sentenced to the box for a post-whistle scrum with Brad Marchand -- and with Johnson just as guilty as Marchand, as No. 63 was going for some back-of-the-bus neck-pinching in the scrum -- while Marchand remained out there for a Boston power play. The call against Johnson honestly found a way to cheapen a legitimate penalty that came when Ryan McDonagh smashed Marchand from behind 15 seconds into the man advantage, giving the Bruins a fruitless five-on-three advantage for over 100 seconds.
But the true breaking point of a nonsensical first came when Bruins defenseman Torey Krug was whistled for a cheapo slash to the hockey pants of Brayden Point. The Krug 'penalty' came with actual repercussions, too, as Yanni Gourde scored on the power play to give the Lightning a 1-0 lead. The call was saved from being truly damning thanks to a Charlie McAvoy goal before the end of the first period -- although it wouldn't be the last we heard of slashes in Game 2.
Oh, and lest we forget: This period also featured a close to 20-second stretch where the net was off its moorings without the officials realizing it. The men paid to do this let a power-play opportunity go on with the shorthanded team's net off its moorings and did not notice until Rask vacated his net to point it out. This is not Game 45 of the regular season between the Panthers and Coyotes on a sleepy Wednesday. This is the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. To not notice something like this, even with both benches screaming at you, is beyond comprehension.
Both teams fought through this crew's ineptitude, though, and the stage was set for a one-goal third period between the Eastern Conference's top two teams. What more could you possibly want from just the second game of this series?
How about a maddening mix of bogus calls and horrid mix of let nothing go versus let everything go?
Cool. Sign me up, said nobody.
In search of the game-tying goal, the Bruins were sentenced to a four-minute penalty kill when David Pastrnak appeared to clip Victor Hedman upstairs with a high-stick right off a faceoff. Except, a replay clearly showed you that Hedman managed to hit himself in the face with his own stick. What an immensely fun time had by all!
It got worse in the final moments, too, and with the Bruins still trailing in a one-goal game.
First came what was perhaps the most obvious miss of the year as Anton Stralman got away with slashing Brad Marchand on the hands on a breakaway. Considering what Krug was whistled for in the first period, to miss this obvious of a call, especially on a late-game breakaway, is simply inexcusable.
If you’re not going to call this you shouldn’t be allowed to have a job pic.twitter.com/8BsJE4EHRy
— DL (@davelozo) May 1, 2018
This has been a penalty 10 out of 10 times this season. And this was the penalty less than 50 minutes before that. This is the new standard for slashing. Hell, this could even qualify for the old standard of slashing. So to miss something like that -- and especially at that point in the game -- is beyond infuriating, and the B's were absolutely at that point.
“That is kind of play that was called earlier in the game,” a frustrated Marchand said. “They call that all year; it was a slash up around the hands and that should have been an automatic penalty shot, let alone a penalty."
“At the end of the day I think the breakaway, I think that should be called,” Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy said after the loss. “In my estimation I disagree with the non-call and I think when you hit him on the hands and he clearly loses possession of the puck that is an infraction. They impacted the game and that’s where it is frustrating.”
They made one more impact in this game, too!
The top clip is what Kevan Miller was whistled for early in the third period. A definite penalty almost all the time. I'm not going to even try to dispute that. It's boarding and/or a hit from behind, and it coulda been a lot worse. But below? That's Dan Girardi just straight-up crosschecking/boarding Pastrnak off the puck with under two minutes to go in the game, forcing the Bruins to cede possession in a 6-on-5 advantage. The penalty? Oh, there wasn't one.
Miller hits Point from behind pic.twitter.com/HR0x5b2jsV
— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) May 1, 2018
How does Girardi get away with this? pic.twitter.com/RSWua3xNhj
— Brandon Share-Cohen (@BShareCohen) May 1, 2018
There is almost no difference in these plays besides the time of game. And for a crew that salivated over the thought of calling any and every sort of skirmish or confrontation, to let that play slide late in the game is just horrendous.
And comes back to the greater point is that all fans, coaches, and players want is consistency. And there's been none.
The NHL is already the only major professional sports league that openly changes their rules come postseason play, and we've seen that countless times. Hell, you can argue that it's one of the biggest reasons why the 2011 Boston Bruins were able to win a Stanley Cup. And I'll admit that I like that more than I hate it, as it often allows the game to be decided at even-strength play. But when you put yourself in this odd guessing game of what will be called and when, which this postseason has undoubtedly become -- the Bruins have played in games with two total penalty minutes and 26 total penalty minutes in the last 11 days alone -- you get this trainwreck. I mean, we're in the second round of the playoffs and centers still do not know why they're getting tossed from the faceoff dot at alarming rates.
It's just one wretched mess.
In Boston, the Bruins will surely be held accountable for what was not their best game. Nobody is going to shy away from that. But it'd just be nice if, for once, the league would hold another disastrous officiating crew accountable.
Ty Anderson is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Ty? Follow him on Twitter @_TyAnderson.