“Yes,” Torey Krug said when asked about Berube’s comments changing the officiating tide.
Yes, the Bruins didn’t help themselves after a strong 20 minutes with captain Zdeno Chara giving his teammates an emotional lift. But they couldn’t build on a first period where they fired 18 shots on goal on a susceptible Jordan Binnington to St. Louis’ eight. They looked like they skated in cement once Ryan O’Reilly notched the game’s first goal just 55 seconds into the middle stanza to give the Blues a 1-0 lead.
What followed in the final 20 escalated into full-blown frustration for the Bruins’ bench and the 17,565 in attendance at TD Garden.
The Bruins still had a chance despite gaps of sloppy play. But instead of discussing a chance to steal Game 5, we’re talking about the men in stripes once again taking the center of attention.
It didn’t start out well for the officiating crew with missed calls on head hits from Ivan Barbashev on Marcus Johansson and Zach Sanford on Krug. Neither was as egregious as Tyler Bozak’s slew foot on Noel Acciari that led directly to David Perron netting a backbreaking third-period tally.
A concussion spotter took Acciari out following the hit. But there’s nothing the Bruins can do about it other than venting their frustrations.
“The concussion spotter took [Acciari] out of the game. It was blatant. It had a big effect on the game,” an irate Bruce Cassidy said postgame.
“I’m a fan of the game. This is the National Hockey League and it’s getting a black eye with the officiating in these playoffs, and this [missed call] is another one that’s going to be talked about. I thought that call…there’s time [to tie it up] but it really made it difficult for us to win tonight. So it’s disappointing, and I guess to answer your original question [about the officiating], it was egregious.”
Jake DeBrusk put the Bruins within one with his first of the series at 13:32 — 2:56 after Perron’s tally. But they couldn’t net the equalizer and now hope to force a Game 7 back in Boston.
Here’s what we learned as the Bruins look to come back from a 3-2 series deficit for the second time this postseason.
Putting the big picture on the postseason officiating
“You missed an F’n call is what was being said on the bench,” Cassidy added. “Listen, we thought we got screwed, but you got to keep playing and we did.”
Easier said than done for Cassidy and company following the Acciari incident. Now they know how some of the other teams felt about missed calls.
Heck, go back as recent as the Blues-Sharks series where a missed hand pass in St. Louis’ defensive end leading directly to Erik Karlsson’s overtime winner in Game 3. Before that, the Sharks benefited in Game 7 of their series with the Vegas Golden Knights after scoring four power play goals in a five-minute span following a questionable decision to give Cody Eakin a game misconduct for cross-checking Joe Pavelski.
These aren’t any questionable calls during a 60-minute game. These are game-changing decisions.
“They score a goal off of it and it winds up being the game winner,” Acciari said about the Bozak slew foot. “It’s embarrassing.”
It’s embarrassing for the NHL to cave to Berube’s comments, who insists his critique of the officials following Game 3 didn’t change the on-ice narrative. It’s embarrassing for the league to have to send out a public statement via a pool reporter.
Most of all, it’s embarrassing for hockey fans to watch this sideshow with two spirited teams battling it out for the sports ultimate prize.
The power play’s struggles are trickling down
Amidst all the officiating turmoil, the Bruins still wound up with three power play attempts. That usually bodes well for a team that went a perfect 4-for-4 on four shots on goal in Game 3.
That perfect outing seems like a distant memory. The Bruins went 0-for-3 with the man advantage, looking all out of sorts with their static setup and puck mismanagement. The B’s are now 0-for-5 on the power play since that Game 3 outing as the Blues’ penalty kill remained disciplined, disrupted shooting lanes and made Boston settle for low percentage plays.
“I think we’re staying tight. We’re not letting them pass through the seams and shoot from the top and stuff like that. We’re making it harder on them and keeping them on the outside,” Blues forward Oscar Sundqvist said. “So we just need to keep doing the same thing and we’re probably going to be fine if we do that.”
The Bruins found a rhythm at 5-on-5 at times in Game 5, but they’ve struggled all series against the Blues at even strength. DeBrusk finally netted the first 5-on-5 goal from the top six this series.
The power play has a trickle down effect on the Bruins’ even strength scenarios. They need that to click again in Game 6 if they want to send the series back to Boston for a winner take all Game 7.
The Bruins, once again, are in familiar territory
The five remaining Bruins from the 2011 Stanley Cup team and run to the Cup Final two years later faced this exact same scenario. Chara, Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, Tuukka Rask and David Krejci each tasted the joy of victory and the agony of defeat in their respective matchups against the Canucks and Blackhawks.
Unlike 2011 and 2013, Marchand, Bergeron, Rask, Krejci and Chara will have to win a Game 6 on the road in front of a hostile crowd. But they’ve been in this spot before with their current teammates.
The Bruins faced the exact same scenario in Round 1 against the Maple Leafs. Auston Matthews, John Tavares and Frederik Andersen gave Toronto reason for optimism with their stellar performances through the first five games of the series. But Boston found a way to neutralize the Leafs’ top-six and rattled Andersen in Games 6 and 7 to advance.
The Blues, though, haven’t been rattled yet. They’ll come into Game 6 with a 7-1 mark in Games 5 through 7 this postseason. They’ve had their backs against the wall since the turn of the new year — after entering 2019 with the worst record in the league — and shined in tough situations.
Winning two in a row is a tough ask in the Stanley Cup Final. But the Bruins faced adversity in the face all season long themselves, and hope to persevere again come Sunday night.
“We’ve done it a lot this year through different situations, including the playoffs. The Toronto series is a big example of that,” defenseman Brandon Carlo said. “So, yeah, we’re going to try [to bounce back].”
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