Boston Bruins fans were outraged when David Perron beat Tuukka Rask in the third period of Thursday night’s Game 5 to give the Blues a 2-0 lead. It wasn’t because Perron collected a loose puck off the leg of Torey Krug and banked it in off of Rask, no, it was because Tyler Bozak committed a penalty mere seconds earlier.
It was a blatant penalty, so clear that Bozak himself immediately turned to the official and began to plead his case. Turns out, he didn’t need to argue. After taking out Noel Acciari at the knees, Bozak helped set up Perron for the game-winner in a crucial road victory for St. Louis. The Blues were the better team on Thursday night and deserved the result they got. That said, they will return to St. Louis with their victory stained with controversy in the eyes of fans and media.
“The non-call on Acciari, their player is on his way to the box, it’s right in front of the official, it’s a slew foot. Our guy is gone. The spotter took him out of the game for a possible concussion” seethed Bruins’ coach Bruce Cassidy postgame. The normally level-headed leader of the Bruins was irate in his press conference Thursday, as was the always calm Patrice Bergeron.
“I think we all have the same opinion about it” was Bergeron’s short, sweet and frustrated response to inquiries about the biggest moment of the night.
Bruin fans, like their coach and leaders, have every right to be angry. No penalty on that play is unacceptable, and is likely to result in the end of the season for the officiating crew. If Steve Kozari and Kelly Sutherland don’t get the Game 7 assignment, should it happen, no one should be surprised. After all, that play impacted the game in a big way.
“I thought it was a great hockey game” continued Cassidy. “That call probably, and there’s time, but it really made it difficult for us to get the win tonight.”
All that said, as angry as the Bruins and their fans are, there is no reason to be surprised.
The worst part about the missed call against Bozak? It was neither surprising nor outrageous. The thing is, this is common. Awful calls like this have happened all throughout the playoffs and stretch back to the regular season and even prior years. There is no consistency in the NHL, and the level of officiating has progressively gotten worse.
The NHL should be embarrassed by those facts. This is the biggest hockey league in the world and is known as one of the ‘Big Four’ North American sports leagues. To have such poor officiating, which has overshadowed multiple playoff games this spring alone, is a problem.
When people look back at the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, what are they going to remember? They’ll remember the horrible five minute major against Vegas late in Game 7 that propelled the Sharks to a victory. They’ll remember a hand-pass goal for those very same Sharks in overtime against the Blues. Oh, and they’ll remember Perron’s goal in Game 5 because of a missed penalty. That’s an embarrassment for the league.
What is the answer to this problem? Tough to say, but the league has to do more training with their officials. More clarity on rules from the league, more consistency in what is called interference and what is goalie interference. Right now, what the NHL has simply is not good enough. These officials cannot keep up, don’t have a good enough understanding of the rules, and continue to make mistakes that prove costly in important games.
The quality of officiating in the NHL is at an all-time low. There is a problem in the NHL. It must be addressed. Bruin fans got a taste of it last night, but make no mistake, this is far from a new issue.