Bruce Cassidy

Boston Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy appeals to an official from the bench during the second period in Game 5 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final against the St. Louis Blues, Thursday, June 6, 2019, in Boston. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

ST. LOUIS ( — Are we really talking about the refs again?

As the Blues prepare for Game 6 in St. Louis—a game for which the literal, actual Stanley Cup will be in the building due to the fact that St. Louis is one win away from claiming the prize for the first time in the history of the franchise Sunday night—a familiar story line has developed.

That's right: Someone's blaming NHL refs for a loss.

Let me make something clear: I don't believe the refs have been good throughout this year's Stanley Cup Playoffs. They've made more mistakes than I care to count, and it's happened in each round of the postseason. They haven't been "actually fine." That much is clear.

But the idea that the Boston Bruins have been disproportionately victimized by the officials' shortcomings is laughable. After falling to the Blues 2-1 in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final, Boston's argument rests upon the weight of a controversial no-call that occurred midway through the third period of Thursday's game. In the Blues offensive zone, Tyler Bozak upended Noel Acciari during a sequence that would ultimately end in a David Perron goal to put the Blues ahead 2-0.

Did the refs miss the call?

While this one isn't nearly as cut and dried as some other decisions that have gone against the Blues earlier in the postseason, let's just say that no level-headed Blues fan would've grumbled too terribly had the refs sent Bozak to the box for two minutes for tripping. You could certainly see the argument for a penalty on the play.

What's so fascinating, though, is the way Boston has responded since the moment it happened.

Arguably, it began with Acciari himself during the actual play, after contact from Bozak sent his left leg airborne. Watching in slow motion, it seems that Acciari may have embellished the landing a bit with his right skate, launching backward into a fantastical fall that would make even some soccer players blush.

If I were the referee watching Acciari go into a gymnastics routine before lying on the ice for the remainder of the play in hopes of drawing a stoppage, I'd probably swallow my whistle, too.

Acting as though the only plausible outcome was a call against Bozak, ignoring that matching minors would have arguably been just as appropriate, Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy didn't mince words when he launched into his displeasure with the officials after the game. 

“I sat here two days ago or whatever it was and I said I believe these officials are at this level because they’ve earned the right to be here. You should be getting the best. But the narrative changed after Game 3," Cassidy said. "There was a complaint or whatever put forth by the opposition that just seems to have changed everything.

"I mean, the non-call on Acciari, their player's on his way to the box. It's right in front of the official. It's a slew-foot. Our guy's gone. The spotter took him out of the game for a possible concussion. I mean, it was blatant. Big effect on the game. I mean this has happened, I'm a fan of the game. The National Hockey League is getting a black eye with their officiating this playoffs, and here's another one that's going to be talked about.

"I thought it was a great hockey game. That call probably—I mean there's time—but that really made it difficult for us to get the win tonight, so I'm disappointed. I guess to answer your original question, it was egregious."

The best part of Cassidy's diatribe was the sentence that ended it. After carrying on for about 63 seconds, Cassidy concluded his thoughts on the officials with the following words:

"But we're moving on, we're getting ready for Game 6."

Yeah... clearly.

With tweets and comments absolutely oozing with the supposed 'we're moving on,' mentality, Bruins fans have followed their coach's lead since Thursday night. Bostonians are convinced the refs have gone soft when it comes to calling penalties against St. Louis as a result of Craig Berube's comments following Game 3.

For the sake of the record, here's what Berube said in those comments:

“First of all, we were the least penalized team in the league in the first three rounds, now all of a sudden we’ve taken [16] penalties in one series," Berube said. "So I don’t know. 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 don’t agree with all of the calls.”

Really, Bruce Cassidy? We're supposed to believe these were the big bad comments that had the power to influence the authority of NHL referees? This is the lukewarm take from Berube that, in your words, has "changed everything?"

Goodness. He must be Winston Churchill reincarnated.

Can you imagine if the Bruins had to endure, oh, I don't know, an illegal hand pass leading directly to an overtime goal that got ignored by the officials in one of their playoff games?

Of course, the Blues already did that. And instead of raising a big stink about the blown call—one that literally ended a playoff game, unlike this alleged trip that occurred with nearly half a period to play—the Blues basically refused to talk about it.

With the same quiet confidence they've embodied since early January, the Blues let their performance, not that of the officials, dictate the story line. After losing the hand pass game, the Blues didn't trail once for the rest of the Western Conference Final against San Jose.

Now against the Bruins, the shoe is on the other foot. Even conceding the Blues caught a break on the Game 5 no-call, it's their demeanor throughout the fallout that continues to be their advantage.

The Bruins are on tilt. As he always has, Berube played it cool, practically gas-lighting Cassidy as though his post-Game 3 comments about penalties—tame though they may have been—never even happened.

"That my comments changed (the officiating)?" Berube clarified regarding Cassidy's claim, before chuckling to himself at the podium. "I don't agree with it, but it doesn't matter. I'm not here to judge the officials and calls that could have been, or couldn't have. They go both ways. There's calls the other way that could've been called, and they weren't. So I don't know what to say about that. I really don't want to say anything about it."

Is it gamesmanship? You bet. And at least so far, it couldn't be going better for the Blues.

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