BOSTON — Coach Bruce Cassidy blasted the officiating after the Boston Bruins’ Game 5 loss on Monday night, theorizing that the New York Islanders have fooled the referees into believing they’re a squeaky-clean team.
“This is my take on it: We’re playing a team that has a very well-respected management and coaching staff. But I think they sell a narrative over there that it’s more like the New York Saints, not the New York Islanders,” Cassidy said following the Bruins’ 5-4 defeat that gave the Islanders a 3-2 lead in the second-round playoff series. “They play hard and they play the right way, but I feel we’re the same way. And the exact calls that get called on us do not get called on them, and I don’t know why.”
The Bruins were whistled for four penalties in Game 5, including Patrice Bergeron’s delay of game for flipping the puck over the glass in the third period. The Islanders were given only two penalties in the game, despite the fact the Bruins spent more time in their zone. Boston had a 76-35 shot attempt advantage.
New York capitalized on its man advantages, going 3-for-4 on the power play in the win.
The referees for Game 5 were Francis Charron and Francois St. Laurent.
“They’ve done a great job selling that narrative that they’re clean. They play a hard brand of hockey. But they commit as many infractions as we do. Trust me. It’s [just] a matter of calling them,” Cassidy said.
Islanders coach Barry Trotz was asked about Cassidy’s “New York Saints” comments after the game.
“You’ll have to ask him about that,” Trotz said. “I just looked at where we ended up during the year — we were one of the least-penalized teams in the whole league. [So] I don’t know what he means by that. You’ll have to ask him.”
The Islanders were, in fact, the least-penalized team in the NHL this season at 2.69 penalties taken per 60 minutes. The Bruins were the third-most penalized team at 3.89 penalties taken per 60 minutes.
For the series, each team has received 40 penalty minutes and 13 power plays.
Specifically at issue in Game 5 for Cassidy were a few high-sticking calls that he felt should have been whistled. Cassidy called out a high stick from Brock Nelson on Bruins center Bergeron and another stick that came up high on winger Craig Smith.
“I could go on and on. Maybe we need to sell them more. Flop. But that’s not us. You just hope they’d see them. And the same calls go against us. So it’s not like I’m sitting here and saying, ‘Well, every call against us sucks.’ That’s not true. It’s just that at the end of the day, the similar plays … they need to be penalized on those plays,” Cassidy said.
The Bruins coach took further issue with the Islanders’ gamesmanship when it came to Bergeron in the faceoff circle. Considered one of the best faceoff men in NHL history, Bergeron was tossed from the circle multiple times in the first period after Trotz used his media availability on Sunday to discuss how the Bruins captain “cheats” on faceoffs.
“The biggest thing with [Bergeron], and, really, linesmen can control this, is that he doesn’t like to get his stick down. He’s a veteran guy who knows how to cheat on the faceoffs,” Trotz said. “I’m relying on our very capable officiating crew and linesmen to make sure the cheating doesn’t go on. Because he’s good at it. All the veteran guys are — he’s not the only one. Trust me.”
Cassidy said Bergeron deserves better than that.
“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. He sells the game — and that’s how you treat him? I mean, c’mon,” he said.
Boston fans let their frustrations with the officiating be known throughout Game 5, in stark and vulgar terms. After the final buzzer, dozens of yellow rally towels hit the ice in protest as well.
It was a frustrating night in general for the Bruins, who will now face elimination Wednesday back on Long Island. For their coach, that frustration manifested in a memorable tirade aimed at referees Charron and St. Laurent.
“They just need to be better than that. Call the game as you see it. Quit listening to these outside influences and get it done right,” Cassidy said.
“I don’t think they were great tonight. I’m not going to lie to you. But they have been. And they’re good guys and good officials. I just felt tonight they were off.”