During the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the speed and style of play ratchets up. As teams plod through the rounds, there’s less margin for error and a tenacity that’s unmatched during the regular season. Sometimes big hits are made. Sometimes refs swallow their whistles. Sometimes, very unfortunately, players get hurt.
Do you want the Stanley Cup? You suck that shit up and you deal, especially in the last round.
Normally I’m fairly laid back and objective when it comes to covering things pertaining to hockey and the St. Louis Blues. I appreciate the gamesmanship of coaches. I understand that sometimes players on the team that you personally may be cheering for do stupid things. Sometimes four refs miss hand passes. Sometimes they miss charges. Sometimes the Department of Player Safety is your friend, and sometimes they’re not.
But for the love of God, you play through that.
When Blues head coach Craig Berube “called out” (I don’t really think that’s the right phrase here, but it’s what the internet is calling it, so whatever) the officiating after the Blues’ 7-2 blowout loss in game three, most people recognized it as one of a couple things. Either it was excuse making for his team’s incredibly bad showing and the four short handed goals that they allowed, or it was trying to alleviate some of the pressure within the room on the players’ boneheaded decisions.
“I don’t buy into all of that, to be honest with you. I think that we could definitely be more composed after the whistle. I think we’ve let some frustration get in there where we maybe do too much after the whistle. So, we’ll clean that up, for sure. But like I said, we were the least penalized team in the league coming into this series. I mean, they make calls and don’t really give us explanations why.”
Obviously, the NHL isn’t going to allow their refs to actively call things on purpose to benefit one team or the other. My God, could you imagine that resulting PR nightmare? The Blues went from the least penalized playoff team to taking about five and a half penalties a game on average because the Bruins got under their skin. Torey Krug knocking Robert Thomas into next Tuesday night (and potentially out of the series) was rough. It was also possibly charging, which hasn’t stopped NBC Sports and NBC from blasting it from every media account. David Backes repeatedly trying to crack Jordan Binnington’s knee before receiving an elbow to the face from the Blues’ goaltender? That’s fairly shitty (and pretty typical Backes, to be frank), but it’s also a typical Stanley Cup Final sequence. It provoked a lot of pearl clutching from Bruins fans who apparently missed the first half of the incident.
The Blues haven’t been perfect angels during the run. Joel Edmundson came up with his stick unnecessarily high on Backes in game one (which boy howdy, Backes sold). Oskar Sundqvist’s hit on Matt Grzelcyk sent the latter to the hospital and forced the former to sit for game three. God knows what in the hell David Perron was trying to accomplish on Saturday night by running into Tuukka Rask every chance that he could.
My point in all of this is that shit happens in the Stanley Cup Final. Sometimes your team does it, sometimes the other guys do. But it happens. It doesn’t mean you have to like it, but it happens.
What it really doesn’t mean is for people’s unintentional irony meters to go broken, but that didn’t prevent Bruce Cassidy pushing back after game three on Berube’s assessments of the refs, saying:
“I found it interesting, I fully expect, you have the best refs and you go through the process. I would expect they wouldn’t get baited into somebody’s comments. They should be better that. If they did, I certainly didn’t expect them to. They should have a degree of professionalism. Call the calls that they see.”
I disagree with none of that, and what Cassidy said Sunday afternoon mirrored what he said Saturday night in his post-game press conference. He was the coach who was confident in his team. Berube was the one who was digging for a way to effectively explain why his previously disciplined squad went collectively moronic.
After the Blues’ solid defeat of the Bruins Monday night 4-2, the tune had shifted, and the demeanor of the coaches shifted as well. Today, Bruce Cassidy trotted out this gem:
Cassidy wonders if the Blues would be inspired by the idea that they’re “slowly chipping away at our health.”— Greg Wyshynski (@wyshynski) June 5, 2019
Yes, I’m sure that the Blues’ are either a) doing this on purpose or b) thinking about it one bit.
Grzelcyk is out for the foreseeable future. So is Robert Thomas. I’m very sorry that Zdeno Chara probably has a broken jaw and wasn’t able to return to game four, but I’m also sure that Brayden Schenn didn’t purposefully deflect that shot off of Chara’s own stick and into his jaw. Schenn is all kinds of talented but I don’t think his talent can reach those bounds.
That is a hell of a way for Cassidy to explain this fun stat:
If the Blues play disciplined, they’re doing an outstanding job shutting down the Bruins’ top six at even strength. If they have another game like game four tomorrow night, they can easily win game five with as big of a hand from the Bruins’ lack of production as they can with whatever mystery agenda Cassidy thinks that they have.
I very much hate to break it to the Bruins’ coach, but everyone’s worn out right now and collectively everyone’s health is trash. Both teams should be focusing on taking care of their own business, and I’m sure that the Blues are. If the Bruins are more focused on what the Blues’ are thinking or feeling instead of how they’re playing, then someone is hinting at believing this series is out of reach. I don’t know if Cassidy believes that or if it’s just a subconscious feeling, but when you’re talking about the other guy it doesn’t bode well for your own team.