BRIGHTON, Mass – Everybody knows that Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock has kept up a constant stream of complaints about Patrice Bergeron's face-off techniques over the last couple of playoff series between the Bruins and the Leafs. And it's worked at points with Bergeron getting tossed out of the face-off circle much more regularly than he might be during the regular season, and at times struggling on the draw in this series.
But bringing complaints to league officials administrating over the series can be a double-edged sword, and the Bruins have lodged their inquiries in this series about slewfoot-type activity from the Maple Leafs throughout the series.
While the NHL doesn't consider it to be an actual slewfoot unless there's arm action pushing a player backward while kicking their legs out from under them, it's also clear the Leafs tactic is on the dirty side of borderline activity.
It's the tripping incident in Game 1 that started the entire fracas between Nazem Kadri and Jake DeBrusk that bubbled over in Game 2, and it was there again in Game 6 when Ron Hainsey hauled down Joakim Nordstrom, and somehow Nordstrom was called for the high-sticking penalty as he fell backward from the D-man kicking the back of his skates.
So the Bruins have officially notified the series supervisor about the incidents, and one would expect Toronto is going to get called for it if it comes up in Tuesday night's Game 7.
"I think the slewfoot involves an arm. I just find that their skates bump the back of ours a lot. Whether that's just dumb luck or somehow [the way] the way they battle for pucks, we've brought it up to the [league] supervisor for the series," said Bruce Cassidy. "If you see a few of them then let's [call it]. There are a couple of things that we've found Toronto does that we've brought up. That's why [the league officials] are here, and that's what they ask for. I'm sure Toronto brings things up about us. We'll see where it goes. I know there was one on a face-off where [Sean] Kuraly went down from behind, and I think that's started the DeBrusk/Kadri battle. There's been a few of them every game."
The kicking out of opponent's legs also caught the eye of Hockey Night in Canada's Don Cherry during a Coach's Corner segment last week where he chastised the Leafs for what he saw as a dangerous practice.
"Something's been coming into hockey, a long time ago Pavel Bure did it. But look at this here. That's a slew foot. This is a slew foot too," said Cherry during a Hockey Night in Canada Coach's Corner segment while pointing out a number of plays where Jake Muzzin, Connor Brown and Patrick Marleau clearly tripped Bruins opponents by kicking their legs out from under them. "Kids, if anybody's ever going to get hurt bad, it's going to be a slew foot. It's just creeping into the game. [That] never used to happen before. Don't ever do that. If anybody is ever going to get killed [on the ice] it's going to be with a slewfoot."
It remains to be seen if the Maple Leafs will continue this sneaky dirty tripping technique in a winner-take-all Game 7, or the "just dumb luck" that Cassidy referenced somehow stops now that the league, and presumably the referees, has been made aware of the situation.
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