Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend’s events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.
Not being one to complain about the quality of officiating in an NHL game, or lack thereof, it was very strange to see the events of Saturday night's Eastern Conference Final Game 1 unfold as they did.
The Pittsburgh Penguins are, we would all agree, the better team in the series when it comes purely to playing the sport of hockey, and few gave the Boston Bruins too much of a chance to advance to their second Stanley Cup Final in three years, with just one caveat. If they could agitate the Penguins into "playing their game," rather than that which Pittsburgh prefers, they at least had a chance. So far, so good.
The Penguins, who spent much of this season loath to be drawn into these types of incidents, were very much dismayed by the Bruins' behind-the-play rough stuff and insistence on finishing every check, and this issue was only exacerbated when David Krejci scored an ugly goal against the run of play midway through the first.
The Penguins had, to that point, not spent too much time actually trailing on home ice; they lost a pair of home games to the Islanders but apart from third-period goals, the amount of actual minutes spent behind on the scoreboard was minimal. They looked uncomfortable being down that early, and not having a way to answer back within less than a minute or two, as they had previously.
It was no real surprise that this situation, coupled with the Bruins' continual work along the boards to finish every check with as much authority as possible, caused things to come to a head early in the second. Just 1:38 in, Matt Cooke confirmed what every living-in-the-past Boston media member and fan has been saying about him: He hasn't changed at all. The five-and-a-game he got for running Adam McQuaid was well-deserved, regardless of how long the Bruins' defenseman, who has a history of concussions, lay prone on the ice, possibly (probably) trying to draw a call.
The refs did the only thing they could do there; and though the call was controversial in the greater Pittsburgh area, they at least tried, at that point, to keep things from boiling over. They did the opposite when Brad Marchand ran James Neal from behind in a not-so-similar situation about 10 minutes later. Marchand, who should have a status as a dirty player just as extreme as Cooke's if not worse, only got two for boarding. And that was when the game went completely out of control.
Sidney Crosby is right that the officials allowed things to escalate in that game, but shockingly went without mentioning the role the wound-up Penguins had in proceedings.
Marchand could have gotten five as well, and the only people who would be mad about it, really, were Bruins fans and players, who wouldn't have found the irony in their complaints about Matt Cooke if you drew them a map. That he didn't was what led directly to the Jarome Iginla/Chris Kelly run-in that in turn provided the impetus for the Crosby/Zdeno Chara/Tuukka Rask incident and the Evgeni Malkin/Patrice Bergeron fight. All of it stupid, all of it ultimately pointless.
Those hard feelings didn't go away in the third period, despite the refs letting everything but an innocuous Crosby slash on Tyler Seguin very late in the proceedings go without raising their eyebrows. And from all the talk immediately following the game, it seems as though the Penguins are feeling hard done by in all this.
(Again, there is inherent irony that Pittsburgh is the team that finds itself complaining about officiating going against it, but here we are.)
And one has to wonder what that means for tonight's Game 2.
Read More »from What We Learned: Bruins, Penguins Game 2 needs much better officiating, for safety’s sake