By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
Let's be honest: There's still no rhyme or reason to anything that goes to video review in the National Hockey League.
Even as we enter the fifth year of the coach's challenge (time flies when you're having anything but fun), there's no set of standards to anything the league's officials and/or situation room in Toronto decides. They'll tell you that there is, but then again, their explanations are typically just word salad and those in charge of delivering such explanations have repeatedly told us in not-so-many words that they have no interest in accountability. (They should really consider a job in sports talk radio.)
Thursday's 4-2 loss to the Avalanche gave us our first look at the same old song and dance, too, as the Bruins had two goals wiped off the board, and by a pair of clanging skates and a skate blade that was four centimeters ahead of a puck. (Please remember this standard the next time Noel Acciari is on the receiving end of a Sweet Chin Music en route to the game-winning goal in the third period of Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final and the league basically tells you to shut up and move on.)
The reviews, as a whole, are a problem, if only because they're are not correcting or preventing egregious mistakes. I mean, that was their original intention. The league wants scoring. They want close plays. They want drama.
But these? These are just glorified hunting exhibitions.
When Karson Kuhlman scored to put the Bruins up 3-1 at the 1:50 mark of the second period, nobody batted an eye.
That was Kuhlman scoring his first of the year, off an assist from Jake DeBrusk, and with Nikita Zadorov engaged in a net-front battle with Boston center David Krejci. But a challenge from Colorado revealed that if you zoomed in and slowed the replay down just long enough, Krejci's skate banged into the skate of Avalanche goaltender Philipp Grubauer. Oh, this changed everything. Forget that Grubauer had the ass of his own defenseman (Zadorov) in his face on the shot. Krejci hit Grubauer's skate, and that's the only reason Kuhlman scored. Cool. Makes sense.
The league's explanation?
It was determined that Boston’s David Krejci interfered with Colorado goaltender Philipp Grubauer prior to Karson Kuhlman’s goal. According to Rule 38.11, “The standard for overturning the call in the event of a “GOAL” call on the ice is that the NHL Situation Room, after reviewing any and all replays and consulting with the On-Ice Official(s), determines that the goal should have been disallowed due to “Interference on the Goalkeeper,” as described in Rules 69.1, 69.3 and 69.4”.
I can confirm that these are indeed words in a sentence.
The reality, however, is that if it wasn't called in real-time, there really wasn't enough interference to wipe a goal away to begin with. Goaltender interference is pretty clear like that, and goaltenders will certainly make it known when their area is trifled with. Some have even successfully made a contemporary dance routine out of the slightest bump. For a league that is in a constant state of searching for more scoring, this sure doesn't seem like the standard you want to set for interference.
But the Bruins rebounded and got their third goal of the night on a Jake DeBrusk power-play goal in the third period.
...That was until a coach's challenge confirmed that David Pastrnak entered the zone ahead of the puck.
Now, let's make this clear: This was indeed offside. Yup, yes, a million times yes. It was also anything but blatant (and naturally missed on the ice), as Pastrnak's offside entry on the wiped-away goal came over 50 seconds before DeBrusk put the puck by Grubauer. You and I had as much to do with that goal as Pastrnak's zone entry did. But thanks to a zoomed in, slow-motion replay, we got our confirmation that an otherwise good goal needed to be negated a minute later.
Again, you can challenge this, but not game-changing non-calls on the biggest stage.
None of it makes any sense, and it's legitimately bad for the game.
This isn't sour grapes because the Bruins' bid for an 82-0-0 season ended on Thursday night. They've already held a team meeting and agreed that they'll settle for 81-1-0 and going 16-0 in the postseason. This is sour grapes about still not knowing what the hell to expect. Not even five years into a process that's routinely accomplished the opposite of its original design.
Here are some other thoughts and notes from a loss a mile above sea level...
With Joakim Nordstrom back in the mix, the competition for minutes and roles is officially on
The Bruins essentially have two jobs for four skaters.
Assuming Karson Kuhlman is going to get an extended look to the right of Jake DeBrusk and David Krejci on the second line, the Bruins are looking for a winger to ride with Danton Heinen and Charlie Coyle on their third line, and for the optimal fit alongside the sneaky-important Sean Kuraly-Chris Wagner duo.
And with Joakim Nordstrom finally back in the lineup after missing the first three games of the season due to a lingering foot injury, you've officially seen all four candidates -- Nordstrom, David Backes, Par Lindholm, and Brett Ritchie -- in action.
So who are the favorites for the vacancies?
Starting on the fourth line, Nordstrom seems like the guy given his additional value on the penalty kill -- he's a fearless shot-blocking option and one of Boston's more relentless forecheckers up front -- as well as his ability to move up the lineup in a pinch. I'd argue that the Bruins kinda overplayed their hand on the latter value point a year ago, but that's last year. But it's impossible to ignore the fit that the 35-year-old Backes has been with the Kuraly-Wagner duo out of the gate this year, as that group's board-rattling style has led to tangible results with possession time, goals, and penalties drawn. Cassidy will take those three things every time they're presented, which is why it may be tough to sit No. 42 on a somewhat regular basis.
On line three, meanwhile, Ritchie seems like the candidate to ride with Heinen and Coyle given the fact that he's the only one with a goal to his name this year. But that goal came 69 seconds (nice) into the new season, and there's been more questions than answers in the ice-time that's followed. Ritchie seems like he can be a worthwhile disruptor and net-front presence, but is he polished enough to finish the sometimes slow-developing, energy-burning plays and chances Coyle and Heinen create?
For now, it seems like the rotation shall continue.
No carryover in DeBrusk vs. Kadri feud
The last time Nazem Kadri and Jake DeBrusk were on the ice at the same time, Kadri lost his mind (yet again) and cross-checked DeBrusk in the head as retribution for a hit on Patrick Marleau (as well as a potential knee-on-knee hit) in Game 2 of the 2019 first-round series between the Bruins and Maple Leafs. Kadri, as he is wont to do, was suspended for the remainder of the series, and was traded to Colorado in an offseason deal for a discounted Tyson Barrie and Alex Kerfoot.
But there were no Tkachuk-Doughty levels of animosity between DeBrusk and Kadri on Thursday night.
In fact, there really wasn't anything at all, as the rivals had almost no interaction of any sort throughout the night.
Now, perhaps this isn't all that shocking. After all, DeBrusk didn't really feel like touching on the Kadri incident when asked about reigniting the rivalry Paddy's style, according to the Boston Globe's Matt Porter (a man who enjoys a plant-based diet, which means he's gonna live like at least 15 years longer than my dumb ass). But it woulda been an awful lot of fun.
Colorado will certainly be one of more tantalizing teams in 2019-20
Two nights after getting a look at the team that may very well run the Western Conference in 2019-20 in the Vegas Golden Knights, the Bruins got an up-close look at Jared Bednar's Colorado Avalanche. It's a team with some downright must-watch talent at the top of their roster, too; Colorado's top line of Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon, and Mikko Rantanen might just be the best line in hockey, 20-year-old defenseman Cale Makar ('sup, UMass?) already looks like a stud, and goaltender Phillip Grubauer is coming off a breakout year (and stopped 39-of-41 shots on Thursday). But what makes the Avalanche such a dangerous team is really all the players you kinda forgot about them adding to their mix in the offseason.
And those players made the difference on Thursday night.
Veteran bottom-sixer Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, who was a key piece of Vegas' bottom-six group for the last two years, scored to tie things up at 2-2 in the second period, good for his first goal in a Colorado sweater. Bellemare also logged 1:20 of shorthanded time on ice for a Colorado penalty kill that went a perfect 1-for-1 (despite what the B's may argue).
Andre Burakovsky, meanwhile, used some poor breaks for the Bruins to his advantage and absolutely ripped a goal through Jaroslav Halak to put the Avalanche up by one in the third period. The goal from the five-year Capitals forward, which held as the game-winning strike by the night's end, wouldn't have been complete without a great screen from Joonas Donskoi, who joined the Avs after a career-best 14 goals, 23 assists, and 37 points for San Jose in 2018-19.
It just seems like an embarrassment of (versatile) riches for the Avs.
My preseason pick did have it being a Golden Knights-Stars final in the West, but it wouldn't be shocking at all to see the Avalanche skating -- and at a straight-up blazing speed -- in round three this spring.
The Bruins are back -- and on Garden ice for the first time this year -- Saturday night against P.K. Subban and the Devils.