“I mean no disrespect...”
“Don’t take this the wrong way...”
“I’m sorry if someone took offense...”
These are the things people say right before they contradict themselves and hope that conditional intro absolves them of responsibility.
So it goes with Boston Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy, who laughably asserted that his team is not going to bitch about the officiating...while bitching about the officiating.
When I first saw the tweets sharing a bit of Cassidy’s quote after Game 4, that the Bruins “haven’t had very many power plays,” I thought, okay, might be one sentence out of context, in response to a question that invited him to go there.
But no. The Bruins coach is in full-on We Are Victims mode, which is hilarious given the calls they’ve received and escaped, and the the fact the NHL’s inconsistent officiating has clearly taken its pound of injustice from both teams.
That team seriously thinks it’s getting the “short end of the stick.”
Get a load of this, via MassLive:
“I think the whole playoffs, we haven’t had very many calls put us on the power play,” he said. “Chris Wagner almost got his head taken off the other night the other in front of the net. You see the referee looking at it and they don’t call it.
“They see what they see. You can’t do anything about it. You hope that comes around. You keep playing hard,” Cassidy continued. “We’re not going to bitch about it. It is what it is. Hopefully, we’ll start getting the ones we deserve and take advantage of it. Even right before the goal, there looked like there could have been a call and they didn’t call it and they come down and score. You have to play through it.”
The Bruins have a really good power play — third best conversion rate in the playoffs — so naturally they want everything to be called. They’ve also been in the playoffs a time or two, so they know most things will not.
Refs deliberately avoid all but the most blatant rough stuff (and even then...sometimes a spear is just a slash). Instead they focus most of their officiating influence on what you might think are clear tripping and high-sticking calls, until you watch Charlie McAvoy spinorama himself into Josh Bailey and draw a tripping call against a guy who did nothing but legally maintain his position. Until you see Brad Marchand draw a call against Matt Martin by ducking under Martin’s armpit and jumping up to act like he was horse-collared.
Then you know, good lord, the Bruins are getting just fine treatment, no pun intended.
Look in the Mirror
But the Bruins media/fan ecosystem has plenty of echoing voices that will feed this conspiratorial beast, including longtime columnists and hyperactive writers who immediately determined that Mathew Barzal was exaggerating the effect of being speared in the jewels. (Note: That’s a common euphemism for someone HITTING YOU IN THE TESTICLES.)
(I don’t know how to describe this, and I’m sorry that I have to: When you’re hit RIGHT THERE, you pretty much lose all oxygen. You’re gasping for breath and feel an indescribably severe pain. But weirdly, I guess because we’re men and can only handle so much pain — the species probably wouldn’t survive if we had to do the child bearing — that sharp pain usually goes away within a few minutes. You’ll be down as if you’ve been impaled for a minute, two minutes, even five — it feels like an eternity, so I can’t be sure — but then unless there is lasting damage you can get back at it once you regain your breath. Every man who’s ever been hit there knows this. Yet some, like David Krejci and his media handlers, will pretend not to know that and go “Oh COME on!” And I’m sure they reacted the same way when Trent Frederic was speared by Alex Ovechkin...right?)
Visit any column or story about pretty much anything Bruins, and you’ll find some commenters still crying that they lost the 2019 Stanley Cup final — you remember, they lost a Game 7 at home, Brad Marchand was crying, it was all very sad and I feel terrible for their sorrow — only because Blues coach Craig Berube complained about the officiating earlier in the series.
So I guess the Bruins and Cassidy are living in that version of reality and are hoping they get some extra power plays. Their complaint is a joke, of course, but they’re not wrong to think it might work, because this is the NHL.
Mind you, NHL playoff officiating is so broken that just in the first four games of this series the league has fined two Bruins players for obvious infractions. Jake DeBrusk was fined for crosscheking Scott Mayfield in the base of the skull (no penalty on the play). In Game 4, the refs correctly called Krejci for spearing Barzal, but then under video review they decided maybe it wasn’t SO bad, but spearing is a major, so they just magically decided it was a slash.
Krejci has been fined by the league today, but in hilarious fashion befitting a timeless NHL theme, the league in its fine announcement is calling it a slash. You know, because in this area they want to be “consistent.”)
During the in-game Krejci officials’ review, NBC commentator Joe Michelletti even speculated that maybe they reversed their obvious call of spearing because they saw the (uncalled) crosschecks Krejci received from Barzal leading up to the sequence. Absurd, but also feasible in the NHL landscape.
Of course, if they were really going to go back and reassess the whole sequence on video, they could’ve called both of them for crosschecking, Barzal twice and Krejci once, then given Krejci a spearing (sorry, “slashing”) penalty and one more for Krejci’s tantrum slashing of Barzal while the Isles forward was lying on the ice.
This Playoff Environment is Not New
The NHL loves to let the savagery ramp up in the playoffs. Culturally, they view it as part of the DNA of the game and also believe it’s more entertaining that way. It certainly gets us talking and gets our emotions boiling, so they’re right there.
The problem it creates is every series and every encounter is in the eye of the beholder, so the players — who themselves are getting more and more emotional as brutality ramps up — the media, and fans have no idea what the standard will be from moment to moment, game to game.
Cassidy knows this well, just as he should know the Bruins aren’t being disproportionately wronged here or in the previous round. But this series is deadlocked, it’s very evenly played and at even strength it is set to turn on a bounce or a save.
So if the Bruins can propagandize their way to some extra power plays over the next two/three games, they increase their chances of breaking that stalemate. And if it doesn’t work, and the refs just find them to be whining in desperation, and they end up looking like a team that lost the plot? Well that’s a possible outcome too.