By Kevin Flanagan
BSD Bruins Senior Staff Writer
For the majority of Bruins fans who will continue to carp about missed calls in the 2-1 Game 5 loss to the Blues at TD Garden on Thursday night – the volume of which will reach a deafening point should they lose Game 6 on Sunday in St. Louis – you are missing the point.
The reason that head coach Bruce Cassidy’s club finds themselves on the brink of losing the Stanley Cup Final isn’t because of the officials, it is because their top talent has gone missing since the end of the first period of the 7-2 blowout of the Blues in Game 3 of the series.
As John Adams once famously said, facts are stubborn things. And the facts surrounding the top two lines of the Bruins over the back to back losses to the Blues aren’t just stubborn, they are ugly.
Since the Game 3 victory – in which the top six forwards consisting of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, David Krejci, Jake DeBrusk and David Backes collectively posted a line of two goals, four assists and a minus one – things have gotten considerably worse.
Over the last two games in which the Blues have beat the tar out of the Bruins physically, the core that many thought would carry the Black and Gold to the Cup have been conspicuously absent.
As they have let this series slip through their hands, the six players aforementioned have accounted for exactly one goal, two assists, an embarrassing shot total of 26, and a minus three. Given these type of numbers, the Bruins shouldn’t have had any shot of winning either of these games.
But due to the likes of Charlie Coyle and Marcus Johansson, that is exactly what they have had, yet they failed to capitalize.
And yet, the focus following the pivot 2-1 loss that saw captain Zdeno Chara valiantly playing 17 minutes with a broken jaw and face protection straight out of arena football, was misplaced on the officiating.
“I sat here two days ago or whatever it was and said I believe these officials are at this level because they earned the right to be here and you should be getting the best. The narrative changed after Game 3, there was a complaint or whatever put forth by the opposition and it just seemed to change everything,” said an obviously sour Cassidy after his team put themselves in a must-win situation in St. Louis for Game 6.
“I thought it was a great hockey game. That call probably, and there’s time, but it really made it difficult for us to get the win tonight. So I’m disappointed. So I guess to answer your original question, it was egregious. But we’re moving on and getting ready for Game 6.”
Bitch and moan all you want – and clearly that what was Cassidy was doing in a not so veiled reference to Blues head coach Craig Berube doing the same thing after Game 3 – but that doesn’t change the fact that his best players have been footnotes for nearly the entire series.
Other than Tuukka Rask – whose play this postseason should finally silence his harshest critics, myself included – the players that helped propel the Bruins to the Final, have been the baggage that has them just one loss away from watching the Blues hoist the Stanley Cup for the first time in their 52-year long history.
It is well documented that Cassidy’s club has been a resilient one all season. However, if the core of aging stars doesn’t somehow find a way to right the ship and put together a two-game winning streak of their own, the once assumed duck boat ride through downtown Boston this June, will result in a summer of rides in a golf cart bitterly remembering what could have been.
And no referee’s call will ever be able to change that.