By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
The Bruins put the Blues through special teams hell in Game 3.
Four power-play opportunities, four power-play goals, and on four shots. That evisceration was enough to get Blues head coach Craig Berube to voice his frustrations. Not with his nightmarish penalty-killing group or the leaky play of Jordan Binnington, but with the officiating crew that sent his team to the kill four times by the night’s end.
“We were the least penalized team in the first three rounds, and now all of sudden we’ve taken 14 penalties in one series,” Berube said during his Sunday media availability. “I don’t agree with all the calls.”
It’s not the first time a head coach has put the pressure on the officials between games. Leafs head coach Mike Babcock did something similar between Games 2 and 3 of his team’s first-round series against the Bruins. You can make the case that it worked for Babcock’s Leafs in Game 3, and you can make the case that it worked for Berube’s squad in Game 4, with the Blues allowed to both play their rough style and earn some borderline-at-best power-play opportunities in a 4-2 win.
But Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy wants to think that it didn’t have an impact on how Game 4 was officiated.
“You got the best refs. They go through the process, like teams do. They get evaluated. They’re here because they’ve been the best throughout,” Cassidy said. “I expect they wouldn’t get baited by somebody’s comments. They should be better than that.
“They should have a degree of professionalism, call the calls they see. That’s why [Game 3], I found it odd that we killed five power plays,” Cassidy continued. “We scored on our four. One was in the last minute, so it’s inconsequential. One was on them. It wasn’t an infraction. They got called, challenging an off-sides. Really there’s a couple that they could look at that affected the game, I think one in the first period, one in the second.”
But circling back to Game 4, Cassidy did have a call he clearly didn’t like, with Connor Clifton whistled for an illegal check to the head of Vladimir Tarasenko late in the second period. A call made with an extremely delayed reaction from the on-ice official, and with replay essentially confirming what was a massive sell from the Blues winger.
“I think the call on Clifton was a head-scratcher,” Cassidy offered. “Tarasenko went to reverse hit him. I don’t think there was any contact to the head, maybe his head. I don’t know where that call came from. That’s the only one I was unhappy with.”
This is a penalty in the Stanley Cup Final? Great sell-job from Vladimir Tarasenko pic.twitter.com/8XY5F31LbM— Evan Marinofsky (@emarinofsky) June 4, 2019
The Blues were also gifted a third-period opportunity when Jaden Schwartz went down easily on a Danton Heinen “trip” call, while Alex Pietrangelo appeared to get away with a blatant hold on Charlie Coyle in the first period.
Decent little hold by Pietrangelo on Coyle goes uncalled. The Berube Effect? pic.twitter.com/m9uyiJBYeh— Michael Hurley (@michaelFhurley) June 4, 2019
But Cassidy, whose team actually tied the game on the aforementioned Clifton penalty by way of Brandon Carlo’s shorthanded goal, didn’t want to dwell on what could have been given his team’s struggles in other key areas.
“There’s always some that go your way that they could call. It’s hard to nitpick through every one,” Cassidy admitted. “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 we were called on, and scored on a shorthanded goal. We would have liked to have gotten on the power play a few more times.”
The Bruins, who have been power-play magicians this postseason, will have to hope that a return to TD Garden gives them a few more cracks up a man, as they’ve converted on nine of their 36 power-play chances through 11 home tilts this spring.