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  • Bruins opt for middle-ground remarks following bitter Game 4 loss

    Tim Rosenthal May 13, 2024
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    The Boston Bruins look heavily outmatched against the Florida Panthers.

    They’re also on the wrong end of head-scratching officiating and the league’s decision not to assess any supplemental discipline to Sam Bennett for his sucker punch on Brad Marchand.

    At that moment, Bennett overtook Matthew Tkachuk as Public Enemy No. 1 on Causeway St, especially after TBS showed the precise angle of the Marchand angle ahead of their Game 4 broadcast. By the third period of Game 4, the Panthers forward cemented his status as the series villain after he pushed Charlie Coyle into Jeremy Swayman en route to the equalizer.

    The goal stood upon review. Swayman spoke at length about how he couldn’t play his position. Jim Montgomery declined to critique the league’s decision.

    The next day, Don Sweeney scheduled a press conference at Hanscom Air Force Base before the team departed for South Florida. The Boston GM also opted not to directly criticize the officials.

    “We’re not in position to be criticizing the officials…it’s their protocol, we’ll get fined as a result of that,” Sweeney told reporters. “So there’s no intention in my point to be critical.”

    Sweeney is correct — any disparaging remarks toward officiating results in a hit to the checkbook. 

    But there’s a time and place where accountability trumps all. That’s where Sweeney’s middle-ground approach came in.

    Frankly, he has a point. The league-wide officiating missteps this postseason remain incredibly alarming. The Bruins aren’t the only team that’s either been on the wrong end of borderline penalties, goal reviews and other confusing calls over the last decade-plus. No one benefits at all from the lack of transparency.

    So yes, the league needs to explain itself outside of distributed press releases to the media. And maybe Sweeney tried to persuade the NHL’s upper-management brass to consider that option here.

    But for a fanbase that feels rightfully upset over Bennet’s textbook sucker punch to Marchand and shove to Coyle prompting a collision with Swayman, they needed to hear blunt public response from Sweeney and/or Montgomery.

    “The overall premise that I have is, to be perfectly honest with you, is we should not be asking the coach after a game what they feel about officiating and what happens. You guys should really be focused on what we didn’t do well enough in the course of the game to win a hockey game. Those questions should be directed at the supervisor of officials, supervisor of a series, and/or the officials,” Sweeney said.

    “You want full access and transparency, then put the officials in front of the microphone to answer the question. They’re the only ones that have the experience to handle whatever interpretation they applied to Rule 69 in that case to answer your question. The rest of us? It’s clear why we challenged it because of our interpretation. They’re the only ones who can answer that. Don’t put out a statement; just answer the question.”

    The only definitive answer Sweeney provided at his press conference involved that definitive angle of Bennett’s jab at Marchand. Sweeney confirmed that the Bruins didn’t see the clear and concise version of Bennett’s punch until Sunday, as did the league, for that matter.

    And the Bruins tried to deliver some pushback following Marchand’s exit, highlighted by Charlie McAvoy’s collision with Sam Reinhart on the opening shift and Pat Maroon’s heated verbal exchange with Tkachuk and Bennett later in the first stanza of Game 4.

    “I’m sure everyone is wondering why I haven’t done anything,” the energetic Maroon told the media on Monday. “I’ll sit here and say, it’s not like I haven’t tried or I don’t want to do anything. I love my captain. I love the guys. Trust me, it’s a tough business, and everyone is looking at me to do something. Unfortunately, I tried. I am trying. And we can’t really focus on that. It’s over. It’s done with. We have to focus on winning a hockey game.”

    Maroon echoed that sentiment throughout his media availability.

    And frankly, the Bruins need to click and improve in every area of the ice, especially offensively, in order to extend the series. Against Florida’s aggressive checking brand of hockey, Boston’s offense produced a mere five goals and landed just 57 shots on net following its 5-1 victory in Game 1.

    The narrative over Boston’s shot selection and sloppy puck possessions, along with the heated tensions over Bennett’s recent antics, will continue into Tuesday. 

    Simply put, every Bruin, including Maroon, needs to play their role and provide some needed support for Swayman with a healthy response offensively, emotionally and physically. Otherwise, they’ll have a breakup day scheduled for later this week.

    “It’s frustrating that you guys are trying to do a narrative right now for [expletive] nothing, to be honest. We gotta win a [expletive] hockey game. That’s what it comes down to,” Maroon said. 

    “Unfortunately, what happened, we gotta turn the page and we gotta find a way. You can sit here and say I’m not doing my job. Maybe…maybe I’m not. But like I said before, I’m damned if I do and damned if I don’t. I don’t want to take a suspension. I don’t want to put my team on a penalty kill. I’m doing everything I can. So we can sit here and say that I’m not, and maybe I’m not. But I talked to my captain. I talked to the guys in the locker room. They know I care, and that’s the most important thing.”

    The Bruins will look to win however necessary, and perhaps a potentially returning Marchand will provide another emotional lift. The Boston captain traveled with the team but his status for Game 5 remains uncertain according to Sweeney.

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    Tim Rosenthal

    Tim Rosenthal serves as the Managing Editor of Bruins Daily. He started contributing videos to the site in 2010 before fully coming on board during the Bruins' Stanley Cup run in 2011. His bylines over the last decade have been featured on Boston.com, FoxSports.com, College Hockey News, Patch and Inside Hockey. You can follow Tim on Twitter @_TimRosenthal.

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