Would it surprise anyone if Game 4 between the Washington Capitals and Boston Bruins looked like Game 4 of the Pittsburgh vs. Philadelphia series?
Not that we're going to see 13 goals scored, because (a) this series has exhibited some semblance of professional goaltending and (b) the Bruins' power play negates any chance for a 13-spot on the scoreboard.
Rather, would it surprise you to see a tightly officiated game in which borderline infractions become two-minute minors to ensure the rough stuff is kept in check?
It would surprise Ted Leonsis, actually. Because he's under the impression that the Boston Bruins, reigning Stanley Cup champions, are getting the benefit of the doubt from the NHL and its officials.
From Ted's Take, the Capitals owner's blog (s/t Kevin Dupont), here's what Leonsis said after Nicklas Backstrom's match penalty was upheld and he was suspended for Game 4 against the Bruins:
There is no need to comment or complain right now in a public forum — we made our case in the hearing; it didn't register on NHL officials. Complaining may make us feel better but it won't help us in our preparation for Thursday's game — it is all about focus and attention to detail for us in this coming match up now. We have beaten the Bruins without Backstrom in the lineup this season, We need to take positive thoughts into this next game.
Once more, with feeling: "Complaining may make us feel better but it won't help us in our preparation for Thursday's game."
Just keep that in mind, and read on:
We can't let the officials play a role in our game planning — we need to remain disciplined and remember that the defending Stanley Cup champs will always get the benefit of the doubt; we need to rise above the noise and focus on signal; play tight defense — capitalize on Boston's mistakes — score when we get a power play; continue to rely on strong play in net. Don't retaliate to plays after the whistle.
Again, all of these things are reasonable and reasonably accurate but … oh, c'mon, the Bruins get all the calls? Has Leonsis been Skyping with Ryan Miller?
The Bruins were third in the NHL this season for average penalty minutes per game at 13.4 and third in total penalty minutes with 1,101. Last season, before they became Stanley Cup champions, the Bruins averaged 13.6 penalty minutes per game and amassed 1,115 PIMs. Their minor penalties pre-Cup: 292. Their minor penalties post-Cup: 293.
They've also been fined or suspended by the NHL Dept. of Player Safety more times (five) than the Capitals have (three) during the regular season and the playoffs. Before Backstrom, there hasn't been a player suspended this season for an illegal action against a Bruins player.
Wow, quite the advantage.
The seeds are being planted for Game 4. The Capitals lamented the "other incidents in this series have not been reviewed" in decrying the Backstrom suspension. Dale Hunter complains about a missed offside call 20 seconds before Zdeno Chara scores to give the Bruins the lead late in Game 3.
(And while it doesn't compare to the Danny Briere missed offside in Game 1 between the Penguins and Flyers, Steve Whyno notes "the same two linesmen, Brian Murphy and Tony Sericolo, worked both Penguins-Flyers Game 1 and Caps-Bruins Game 3.")
And Leonsis thinks the Bruins get the benefit of the calls because of their Cup rings.
Game 4 will be a test for the Bruins, Capitals and the officials. Even though they can all expect a tightly called game, Bruins Coach Claude Julien didn't sound like a man about to call of the extra curricular stuff:
"I think the one thing you've got to do, is you've got to play between the whistles. There's scrums that happen after whistles, and you've got to be disciplined enough not to put your team shorthanded. We're just one of many series that have all the same things happening," said Bruins coach Claude Julien. "This is not unique. This is playoff hockey."
To that end, Leonsis made a lot of sense on his blog about the Capitals' approach for Game 4: "We can't get caught up in all of the drama and noise associated with what happened in the past few days."
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