By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — On Saturday evening, Bruce Cassidy dipped his toes into the water of criticizing the officiating in the Bruins-Islanders playoff series.
On Monday night, he went with a cannonball off the high dive, letting his emotions out after a frustrating 5-4 loss to the Islanders in which New York scored three power-play goals.
Cassidy was asked about the officiating in the game — during which Boston got just two power plays and outshot New York 44-19 — and he didn’t hold back.
Here’s what Cassidy said in his postgame press conference:
I think what happens — OK, so this is my take on it. We’re playing a team that has a very respected management, coaching staff, they’ve won a Stanley Cup, so … . But I think they sell a narrative over there that it’s more like the New York Saints, not the New York Islanders. You know, they play hard and they play the right way. But I feel we’re the same way.
And calls, the exact calls that are getting called on us do not get called on them. And I don’t know why. These are very good officials. They’re at this point in the season for a reason.
You’ve got continuous high sticks every game. The exact same high sticks. [Patrice Bergeron] with [Brock] Nelson behind the net. The one that comes up on [Craig] Smith, [Brad Marchand] got called for that in Game 1. I could go on and on — [Chris Wagner] the other day in front of the net.
Maybe we need to sell them more, flop. But that’s not us.
You just hope they’d see them. I mean the same calls go against us.
So it’s not like I’m sitting there going, ‘Well, every call against us sucks.’ It’s not true. It’s just at the end of the day, the similar plays, they need to be penalized on those plays.
But like I said, I think they’ve done a great job selling that narrative that they’re clean.
They play hard. A hard brand of hockey. I love the way they play. But they commit as many infractions as we do. Trust me. So it’s just a matter of calling them.
So that’s the part that I guess gets frustrating. But you play through it.
It’s like Bergeron today. He’s thrown out, what, the first two, three, four faceoffs he takes, because someone mentions [cheating]? You know, have a little respect for Patrice Bergeron. He’s up for the Selke, he’s been a warrior in this league, a face of the franchise, does everything right for hockey, sells the game, and that’s the way you treat him? I mean, come on. Because someone speaks out and says something, like, you know, all of a sudden.
They just need to be better than that. Just, you know, call the game what you see, quit listening to these outside influences and get it done right. Because I don’t think they were great tonight, I’m not gonna lie to you. But they have been, and they’re good officials, I know those two guys, they’re good guys, good officials. And I don’t know tonight, I just thought they were off. But you could say the same about us.
At the end of the day, that’s what I thought. And let’s just play hockey and call the infractions that happen, and we’ll see where it goes.
Later in his press conference, Cassidy spoke at length about the mistakes and miscues from the Bruins’ penalty killers, who struggled mightily without Brandon Carlo and Kevan Miller. But then Cassidy lapsed back into criticism of the refs.
“You’ve gotta put it out of your head. You just feel that deep down, some of the guys are like, ‘Jesus, I’m getting the same treatment, and we’re going to the box.’ So mentally, it could get to you,” Cassidy said. “But you can’t allow it to. At the end of the day, you asked me the question, I answered it. We try not to ever bring it up in the room, because it’s something out of our control. We try to talk about what’s in front of us, what we can control, and that’s that. And that’s all we’ve ever done, and that’s what we’ll continue to do. And maybe Game 6 will be our day, where we get the calls that go our way. And maybe not. I don’t know. I can’t look into the future. We’ll be ready to play. It’s do or die for us, so we better be ready to play.”
David Pastrnak, who scored two goals in the losing effort for the Bruins, said that he felt as though the penalty calls were not evenly distributed.
“There’s plenty they could call our way. They didn’t. That’s pretty much all I can say. I don’t want to get really much deeper than that,” Pastrnak said. “Obviously I think if you’re gonna call those, the first two penalties, you gotta call it both ways.”
Gamesmanship is obviously a big part of playoff series. Cassidy partook in that practice with his postgame comments on Saturday. Barry Trotz responded in kind by singling out Patrice Bergeron “cheating” on faceoffs, imploring the linesmen to ensure a fair fight for his centermen going forward. (Both Bergeron and David Krejci were thrown out of faceoffs in Game 5.)
All of that, though, was child’s play compared to Cassidy’s rant after Game 5.
Trotz might have even taken it to another level by paying homage to Craig Berube with this line, after being told of Cassidy’s comments.
Trotz on Cassidy's "New York Saints" remark: "I don't know what he means by that. We were one of the least penalized teams in the league all year… You'll have to ask him what he means by that."
— Arthur Staple (@StapeAthletic) June 8, 2021
Trotz repeating the same line that Berube offered for the Blues two years ago in the Cup Final may just be a coincidence, of course. But if the veteran head coach had that one ready in the back pocket, then he may be more prepared than we could ever fathom.
As for the series at hand, through five games, the Islanders have had 15 power-play opportunities, compared to 11 for the Bruins. New York has scored. It’s been a massive factor, too, as the Bruins have scored on 45.5 percent of their opportunities with the man advantage, and the New York power play has hummed along at a 40 percent clip.
Cassidy’s biggest issue on Monday night likely involved the slashing penalty called on Sean Kuraly late in the first period — a period which the Bruins had completely dominated. New York scored just 32 seconds into that power play to tie the game at 1-1 before intermission. Boston had 19 even-strength shot attempts to New York’s five in the first period.
Sean Kuraly was called for a slash on this.
Islanders scored on this power play. pic.twitter.com/pouLqCvL1t
— Evan Marinofsky (@EvanMarinofsky) June 7, 2021
Whether or not Cassidy’s commentary will have any effect on the way Game 6 in New York — and, possibly, a Game 7 in Boston — is officiated is anyone’s guess. But it’s quite clear from Cassidy’s tirade that he’s beyond the point of exasperation with the way this series has been officiated.