Call it gamesmanship or desperation now facing elimination, but Boston Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy was grasping for excuses after his team fell to the New York Islanders in Game 5 on Monday night at TD Garden.
Following a 5-4 result that gave the Islanders a 3-2 series lead — now needing just one more win to eliminate the Bruins and move on to the Stanley Cup semifinals — Cassidy went on a tirade about the officiating after the Islanders were rewarded with four power plays; to which they converted on three of them.
Meanwhile, his Bruins received two power plays amidst a screaming sea of Boston fans hooping and hollering every time a Bruins player went down.
Officiating has undoubtedly been suspect and inconsistent throughout this series with a bevy of missed calls on either side. While the Islanders have had 15 power-play opportunities over the first five games of the series, the Bruins have had 11 — prompting Cassidy to indicate that something was amiss.
“It’s a very well-respected management and coaching staff over there,” Cassidy said. “But they sell a narrative over there that they’re the New York Saints rather than the New York Islanders.”
The play has been anything but pious this series, though — and the Islanders have gotten away with a few infractions, including a delay-of-game call on Adam Pelech late in the third period of Game 5. But the Bruins have had their fair share of benefits from questionable officiating. David Pastrnak’s power-play goal in the third period to cut it to a two-goal game came on a soft hooking call on Pelech.
They let a Nick Ritchie elbow to the head of Scott Mayfield go earlier Game 5 and in Game 4 they downgraded David Krejci’s spear to Mathew Barzal’s groin from a major penalty to a two-minute minor; though the Islanders star was no saint with a few crosschecks to Krejci’s back. Boston also got the benefit of the doubt on a potential goalie-interference call where Barry Trotz thought Brad Marchand wedged his stick between goalie Semyon Varlamov and the post to prevent the netminder from sliding to save what resulted in a Bruins goal.
To suggest that the Islanders are getting preferential treatment — especially coming from one of the media darlings of the NHL in the Bruins — is laughable. Especially considering the Islanders were the third-least penalized team in the NHL this season.
“You’ll have to ask him about that,” Islanders head coach Barry Trotz said of Cassidy’s cracks. “Just look where we wound up during the year, we were one of the least penalized teams in the whole league. So I don’t know what he means by that. You’ll have to ask him.”
And after all that griping about the officiating, Cassidy then went on to implore the zebras to show preferential treatment to Bruins star center Patrice Bergeron after he was tossed from the face-off circle multiple times in Game 5 after Barry Trotz said that the four-time Selke Trophy winner has mastered “cheating” on the draws.
“The biggest thing with Bergy — and really, the linesmen can control this — he doesn’t like to get his stick down. So he’s got to come to a stop. And then you have a fair fight,” Trotz said. “So he’s a veteran guy who knows how to cheat on the faceoffs, and I’m relying on our very-capable officiating crew and linesmen to make sure that the cheating doesn’t go on. Because he’s good at it. All the veteran guys are — he’s not the only one.”
Naturally, when Bergeron was tossed from the opening face-off in Game 5, it got Cassidy steaming.
“He was thrown out of what, the first two, three, four face-offs he takes because someone mentioned [something],” Cassidy said. “Have a little respect for Patrice Bergeron. He’s up for the Selke Trophy. He’s been a warrior in this league, a face of the franchise, he does everything right for hockey and sells the game. And that’s the way you treat him? Come on.
“Just because someone speaks out and says something, like all of a sudden. [The referees] just need to be better than that. Call the game that you see and quit listening to these outside influences and get it done right because I don’t think they were great tonight.”
Well, NHL, you heard Cassidy. Call the game strictly against the Islanders and call the game differently for one of the Bruins’ best players. That seems fair.
Puck drop for Game 6 at what will be a raucous Coliseum is Wednesday night at 7:30 p.m. ET.