BOSTON (CBS) — It was a rare scene late Sunday night at the TD Garden, when Bruins head coach Claude Julien sat down for his press conference and called out P.K. Subban and the Canadiens for embellishing calls.
The comments came after Alexei Emelin cross-checked Tyler Seguin at center ice, sending the Bruins forward (who had a goal and assist) into a heap on the ice. No penalty was called, so captain Zdeno Chara took it upon himself to punish Emelin. Chara ended up getting called for an instigator penalty, which calls for a two-minute minor, five-minute major and 10-minute misconduct penalty, keeping him off the ice for the end of the second period and the bulk of the third period. The Canadiens would score the game-tying and game-winning goal in that span.
That non-call on Emelin, combined with several other plays, inspired Julien to go off. Here are Claude’s comments on the matter, in full:
“Zdeno did what he had to do, because when a guy cross-checks one of your good players in the ribs and breaks his stick, and if the referees aren’t going to call it, then we’ve got to do what we’ve got to do here. That’s what he did and I support that. It’s a teammate protecting a teammate. … We’re a team that reacts to those kind of things, and when people take liberties on our good players we go to their defense.
“It’s frustrating. Right now, the frustrating part is that you end up with 17 minutes in the penalty box when you should have been on the power play. It’s as simple as that. And it’s frustrating because, you know, tonight as everybody saw, there was a lot of embellishment. And this is embarrassing for our game – the embellishing – and right now they’ve got over 100 power plays so far and it’s pretty obvious why. And we’re trying to clean that out of our game, and it’s got to be done soon because it’s not about tonight; it’s about the game. The embellishment embarrasses our game. And we need to be better at that.
“And it’s pretty obvious, you know, when P.K. gets hit and he throws himself into the glass and holds his head. And you know what? If we start calling those penalties for embellishment, maybe teams will stop doing it. But until we take charge of that, it’s going to be an issue.
“Our plan was to play the same way we play every night. So we don’t play differently because it’s the Montreal Canadiens. We play our game, and the physicality of our game is part of it. So we just had to go out there and compete hard. And we can’t change. I mean if our hits are clean, or even the push in the corner [by Andrew] Ference [on Brendan Gallgher], a little push and they throw themselves into the boards and get another power play, we can’t change our style. We’ve got to play the way we play. If it’s clean, it should be deemed clean. But you know, it’s hard on referees because when people embellish, it makes them look bad. We’ve just got to make sure that we get the right people when it comes to that, and maybe it will stop the embellishment and stop embarrassing referees.”
He certainly said a lot, and it’d be too easy to digest it all and simply translate it to “Julien complains and blames Bruins’ loss on Subban’s embellishment.”
In fact, at no point in Julien’s pointed comments did he blame Sunday night’s loss on embellishment, as the play which he singled out Subban for didn’t even result in a penalty call, and the Ference penalty didn’t result in a power-play goal.
The reason for Claude’s comments, I think, was pretty simple: He’s sick and tired of referees calling Bruins games based on reputation. The Bruins obviously pride themselves on being “big and bad,” and Julien said himself that their style is to play hard and physical. Perhaps because of that, through the first 40 percent of the shortened season, the Bruins aren’t getting any benefit of any doubt from any referees.
The Canadiens lead the league with 100 power-play opportunities. They’ve been given 62 power plays at home and 38 on the road, and they lead the league in power-play opportunities. Philadelphia, which has played one more game than Montreal, is second in the league with 96 power plays.
The Bruins, meanwhile, find themselves on the opposite end of the spectrum. With just 61 power-play opportunities in 19 games, the Bruins rank dead-last in the league, getting 33 power plays at home and 28 on the road.
They’ve been stuck in an almost-unfathomable stretch of officiating, too. The Bruins just experienced a four-game stretch in which they were given just four total power plays, while their opponents were given 12 power plays. That included the game in Florida when Milan Lucic was hit dangerously from behind and was sent flying headfirst into the boards. No penalty was called, and Lucic ended up being assessed 14 minutes of penalty time for retaliating and arguing with the officials.
Julien’s patience was certainly tested on Saturday afternoon against Tampa Bay, too, when the Bruins were called for a penalty seemingly every other minute, including two terrible boarding penalties. In total, the Bruins were called for nine minor penalties, leaving them left to essentially try to beat the Lightning with one hand tied behind their backs. They were able to pull it off, though, so the postgame commentary from the Bruins and Julien largely focused on not accepting any excuses.
The tune, obviously, changed on Sunday night, but it’s clear that Julien felt the need to send a notice to the NHL that he feels his games this season have been lopsided in terms of officiating. The fact that his team has been given just 61 power plays while having had to kill off 79 power plays lends credence to his case. Going back to last year, too, Julien likely has a beef, as his team ranked 25th with 250 power-play opportunities in the 2011-12 season. (The Canadiens ranked third with 301.)
Julien, who has nearly 600 games of experience combined from both sides of this rivalry, had to have known how it would look for him to step to the podium and make the statements he made. He knew he’d be labeled a whiner and a crybaby by Montreal, and he knew the hockey world at large (much of which seems to hold various levels of ill will toward the Bruins) would jump on him for making excuses. (Though he probably didn’t expect a Montreal radio host to call a Boston doctor’s office to ask about his 52-year-old “baby” who “won’t stop crying.” That was a little over the top.)
But much like Julien said of Chara, the coach simply did what he had to do. He’s tired of his team getting sent to the box more for reputation than actual infractions, and he’s tired of opponents getting the benefit of the doubt that seems to rarely be given to his own team. It wasn’t a reaction to the events from one night but rather the bubbling over of pent-up frustration from seeing a trend develop into a pattern that is working against his team on a far-too-regular basis.
Given how much attention those brief yet potent postgame quotes have gotten, the message was very clearly delivered.