The 2019 Stanley Cup Final has been a seesaw battle from the start, with the Boston Bruins and St. Louis Blues taking turns grabbing momentum of the series.
But something else is taking center stage this series: controversial officiating. High dangerous hits, no calls, coaching influencing and a glaring lack of consistency has dulled the attention to the actual product of world-class players on the ice.
Just days after Craig Berube’s comments of the men in stripes following Game 3, a livid Bruce Cassidy said it best following the Bruins’ 2-1 loss in Game 5.
“The narrative changed after Game 3. There was a complaint or whatever put forth by the opposition and it just seemed to changed everything,” Cassidy said postgame. “This is the National Hockey League and they’re getting a black eye with their officiating in the playoffs and here’s another one that is going to be talked about.”
Cassidy was referring to the no-call on Tyler Bozak for blatantly tripping Noel Acciari in the third period. David Perron scored moments later to give the Blues a 2-0 lead.
The Bruins faced a one-goal deficit midway through the third period and were clawing their way back from the brink of defeat. As Acciari attempted to break the puck out of the defensive zone, Bozak slew-footed him and sent him head first into the ice.
Instead of the Bruins heading to the power play, they ended up conceding the game’s second goal on a two-on-one chance following the Bozak trip.
“The non-call on 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 spotter took him out of the game for a possible concussion. I mean it’s blatant and a big effect on the game,” Cassidy added. “What was being said on the bench was that you missed an F’n call.”
“It was a missed call. In the biggest stage in hockey. I don’t know what else I can say about it,” Acciari said about the play. “They score a goal off of it and it winds up being the game winner. It’s embarrassing.”
The Bruins, now one loss away from elimination, are justifiably upset. Game 5 marked another sore spot for the NHL in a playoff where game-changing controversial calls — or non-calls — affected the outcome.
It wasn’t just the Acciari play that brought heavy criticism. The Blues got away with a couple of hits to the head — on Marcus Johansson and Torey Krug — despite an official watching the play from no more than 10 feet away.
Every official misses some calls. They’re only human after all. But the severity and extent to which it reached is a flat out mockery. It’s the Stanley Cup Final we are talking about here and this stuff is still going on.
The NHL needs to fix this immediately. They can hide horrendous calls in a mid-February game down in Sunrise. But this is the biggest stage with millions of people watching around the world. The last thing they want is another controversial call that determines the victors of the hardest trophy to win in sports.
Matt is a recent graduate from the Pennsylvania State University with a degree in sports journalism and a minor in business. He currently reports on the Boston Bruins and writes featured stories and game recaps for both Bruins Daily and Boston.com
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