By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The Bruins lost Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final. An obvious missed call contributed to that loss. After losing, the Bruins sounded off with their complaints.
But now, it doesn’t matter.
Any room for excuse-making or lamenting missed opportunities is now officially gone, and the next time the Bruins take the ice, they’ll be facing elimination.
The missed call will certainly be a talking point in the three days leading up to Game 6, because officiating can influence games in a significant way, and coaches may be able to influence officiating. That’s a worthwhile story, no doubt.
But as far as the Bruins are concerned, history won’t remember any officiating gripes, or missed calls, or bad calls. History will only remember which team lifted the Cup to end the year, and which team fell short. It’s up to the Bruins now to put aside their grievances and decide which way they want to write their history.
And, while the missed penalty that would have kept St. Louis’ second goal off the board impacted the game in a critical way, it’s not as if it took a win off the board for the Bruins. It made earning a win that much more difficult, but it also came at a time when the Bruins trailed 1-0 in the third period at home. The feelings of sympathy around North America will surely be short for the team that hadn’t even scored a goal through 50 minutes of hockey in a Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final.
The Bruins might not have been trailing if they had not gone 0-for-3 on the power play, generating just five shots on goal on their six minutes with the man advantage.
The Bruins might not have been trailing if they had been able to finish on one of their 17 first-period shots.
The Bruins might not have been trailing if they hadn’t had two defensemen sink below the goal line, thus leaving Ryan O’Reilly unaccounted for — again — on the doorstep, thus allowing the Blues to steal a lead early in the second.
The Bruins might not have been trailing if their top line — featuring a 38-goal scorer, a 36-goal scorer, and a 32-goal scorer — has not been silent all series. Brad Marchand, who recorded his first 100-point season this year, has one empty-net goal and two assists all series. Patrice Bergeron, who scored a career-high 32 goals despite playing just 65 game, has one goal and three assists against the Blues, and none of those four points have come in 5-on-5 play. David Pastrnak has just one goal and one assist this series.
The same goes for the second line, such as it was, with David Krejci centering Jake DeBrusk and a rotation of right wingers in David Backes’ absence. The situation became so dire that head coach Bruce Cassidy seemingly put the names of his forwards in a hat to determine his lines for the second half of this game.
The Bruins might not have been trailing if they had managed to channel the energy boost provided by seeing their captain suiting up and skating despite suffering a broken jaw just three days earlier.
Yet all of those things took place, and it led to the Bruins being in a position where a missed penalty call could really hurt them. The fact that Torey Krug and Jake DeBrusk managed to finally get a puck past Jordan Binnington a few minutes after the Blues had doubled their lead really amplified that reality.
For all of those reasons to feel frustration, though, there was enough in Thursday’s loss to provide some positivity for the Bruins heading into Sunday’s Game 6 — at least, more than there was after the loss in Game 4. For the most part, the Bruins controlled play, even during their worst period of the night in the second. The Bruins outshot the Blues in all three periods, significantly so in the first and third. Overall, the Bruins generated shot attempts at essentially a 2-to-1 ratio to their opponent.
But Binnington made some saves (38, to be precise), the Blues blocked some shots, and the Bruins didn’t really benefit from a bounce or a break that can tilt these games in one direction. Typically, sending that much rubber toward the net results in more positive results than the Bruins got on Thursday.
In that regard, the Bruins have to believe that if they play in Game 6 the same way they did in Game 5, then they may end up with a similar result to Game 3.
That part of the equation, though, can never be predicted. Not in this sport, and not in this month. What can be controlled is an approach and a mind-set. So while Cassidy and his team were justified in letting it rip after the loss, that feeling of being wronged will have to subside quickly. In a few short days, there is business to be done. Whatever happened Thursday night is already history.