In a series that’s quickly becoming one of the most exciting in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, game three did not disappoint. That is until the refs decided they were the stars of the game. Aside from the blatant non-calls on Ottawa’s Marc Methot and Bobby Ryan, which I’ll touch on in a second, the referees tinkering and double clutching on face-offs made the last ten minutes of regulation almost unwatchable. Every faceoff inside of ten minutes remaining in regulation saw a Boston player forced out of the circle by the refs. Even if the Bruins push the envelope on faceoff positioning, the attention paid to it by the officials, combined with the eleven penalties called in the game, and the non-calls against Ottawa, highlights the inappropriate influence that Tim Peel and crew had on the game. The zebras should have called Bobby Ryan for roughing on the same play they called Riley Nash for roughing. Ryan’s targeting of Nash’s head constituted a two-minute penalty. The non-call on Ryan was so egregious that Pierre McGuire, part of the national broadcast, almost blew a gasket.
The missed call left Bobby Ryan on the ice to score the game winner with a man advantage (more on that later).
The non-calls on Marc Methot (check out the gif) throughout the game felt like salt in the wound as the Bruins saw a potential momentum-swinging victory dissolve in front of them. The fans at TD Garden voiced their displeasure littering the ice with trash and trying to steal Senators’ players’ sticks, which was a poor decision.
By the night’s end, an exciting series spiraled into a three ring circus.
In spite of the sour grapes, we must acknowledge the role that the Bruins themselves played in their own game three demise. The famous quote by Roman philosopher Seneca the Younger is relevant here. He said, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” Boston entered game three unprepared, falling into a 3-0 deficit. Although they climbed out of the hole, they put themselves in a position to be undone by powers outside of their control. In the Bruins’ case, bad luck is what happens when lack of preparation gives the opponent an opportunity. Lack Of Preparation The Bruins came out of the gate flat, in their home rink, in front of their home fans. They surrendered three goals and let the Senators out-shoot them 17-4 just minutes into the second period. The Boston defense appeared lackadaisical and undisciplined for the game’s first two goals. The Senators started the scoring just over seven minutes into the game as Erik Karlsson stole a puck behind his own net and launched a beautiful, soaring pass to Mike Hoffman who scored an amazing breakaway goal. Karlsson and Hoffman combined for what amounts to a hockey masterpiece; the difficulty level of everything involved from Karlsson’s pass to Hoffman’s deke constituted a 10 out of 10. Unfortunately for the Bruins, their defense took a nap. As Karlsson handled the puck behind his own net, Zdeno Chara and Charlie McAvoy totally ignored Mike Hoffman lurking near their own blue line. By the time the puck reached Hoffman, he was more than a full zone ahead of the closest Boston defender. Look at this! It’s rare to see a player on a breakaway with this much time.
Check it out in real time.
This shows a total lack of defensive awareness, especially for a Norris Trophy, Stanley Cup winning veteran like Zdeno Chara. The Senators’ second goal also resulted from poor positional play on defense. Once again, Ottawa’s forwards combined for an impressive offense display. With the puck behind the net, Viktor Stålberg made a slick behind the back pass to Bobby Ryan who touched the puck over to Derick Brassard who finished with authority. In this case, Jean-Michael Liles left his post guarding Brassard to pursue Stålberg behind the goal. While Liles may have seen Stålberg’s back turned and assumed he could pin the Senators forward to the boards, leaving a player uncovered in front of your own goal is a big mistake. Stålberg’s chances of scoring from behind the goal were much smaller than Brassard’s of scoring uncovered in front of the goal. Once again a lack of positional awareness stung the Bruins. (1:06 of Video)
Ottawa’s third goal resulted from a different lack of discipline. After Kevan Miller (who played well aside from this play) cleaned out Ryan Dzingel for an interference penalty, the Senators moved the puck adeptly around the offensive zone. Mike Hoffman took a feed from Chris Wideman and blistered the puck past Tuukka Rask. Upon closer review, the Bruins let Bobby Ryan stand in front of Tuukka Rask totally uncontested. While penalty killing defenders need to concentrate on the puck and maintain structure, it’s very difficult for a goalie to see a puck when an opposing player can obstruct his view without resistance.
All of these lapses occurred well within the first half of the game and indicated a total lack of preparation on the part of the Boston players. Once they woke up, however, they really woke up. After falling behind 3-0, they showcased the resiliency that Bruce Cassidy likes to credit them with. David Pasternak returned to form and scored his first career playoff goal in classic David Pasternak style. example They continued to pressure Chris Anderson when he handled the puck and after an adjustment period, rendered the Senators 1-3-1 totally ineffective. Unfortunately, the officials gifted Ottawa a power play that led to the goal that knocked the Bruins to a 2-1 deficit in the series. The referees did blow the call, but two Boston players committed crucial errors that factored into the goal. Dominic Moore over aggressively pursued Erik Karlsson, when he Karlsson had total control of the puck, and Moore was on the penalty kill. This is a cardinal sin in hockey. To make matters worse, Moore attacked arguably the best skater in the league. Erik Karlsson left Moore in the dust effectively turning the play into a five on three. Zdeno Chara, again faltered when it mattered most. The NBC broadcast team aptly pointed out that Chara left the ice at the worst possible time. Example This exposed life-long AHL defensemen Tommy Cross to an odd man situation and the rest is history. Both Moore and Chara’s lack of discipline were the veritable nail in the coffin for the Bruins in game three.
Looking ahead Boston needs to accomplish one thing more than anything else. They need to score first and then score again. Jumping out to an early lead is the best way to combat the Senators’ trap. You can’t win a game 0-2 and utilizing a conservative strategy like the 1-3-1 won’t work for the Senators without the lead. The series’ chippiness has increased steadily from game to game and that means more power play chances. The Bruins must continue to score on the power play. It would help if Brad Marchand could break out of his funk as well. Finally, the Bruins CANNOT GIVE THE OFFICIALS A CHANCE TO INFLUENCE THE GAME. Game four is at 7:30 pm on Wednesday.