By Kevin Flanagan
BSD Bruins Senior Staff Writer
The only thing worse than watching a hockey team play the neutral zone trap, is losing a playoff game due to a goal being disallowed because of a replay challenge on an offsides call. Replay reviews have gotten so silly in all of professional sports these days; it is almost farcical.
If the NHL wants to make sure that they get offsides and goal calls 100% correct, simply install microchips in the players’ skates and the puck to sound an alarm when there is an infraction or a goal scored, and the issue would be resolved.
The technology exists, so why not use it? It would eliminate these types of situations – not to mention the time it takes to call Toronto to review the play – and take the human element even further out of the game, even though it somehow survived for over a century relying on the linesmen’s and referees’ eyes.
Of course, no one knows whether or not the Bruins would have found a way to beat the godforsaken 1-3-1 system that Senators head coach Guy Boucher inflicts on the game of hockey should that goal have stood; but it would have been interesting to see how his team – not to mention the B’s – would have reacted to giving up the first goal for the first time all series. And it may have meant that the Black and Gold wouldn’t be traveling to Ottawa for game five on Friday, fighting for their playoff lives.
The Sens and their system are maddening enough to watch when the score is even, but once they get a lead; it is downright intolerable. It is so bad, even defense-first former Bruins’ head coach and current Canadiens bench boss Claude Julien found it annoying in the Stanley Cup Eastern Conference Finals in 2011.
It is everything the “new NHL” is trying not to be – slow, methodical, and boring – but as long as it is effective, the scar-faced comic book-like head coach is going to use it.
And if the Bruins hope to play another game in the TD Garden this season, they are going to have to find a way to overcome it on Friday night.
Unlike the start to game three on Monday night, effort was not an issue for the Bruins in game four. “The effort was there, but we have to find ways to fight a little bit in front of the net and around the area to make it a little harder for their goalie,” B’s assistant captain Patrice Bergeron said following the frustrating 1-0 loss.
When interim head coach Bruce Cassidy was asked about the difficulty his team had getting past the trap, he replied, “Sometimes, with a team like Ottawa, or with any team, if you get a lead, the game opens up a little bit and some of those opportunities are a little easier to get through there.” He then added, “But, you’ve got to give [Craig] Anderson credit. He made some real good saves on Marsh [Brad Marchand], on-net chances, one with [Ryan] Spooner on a three-on-one, and then on the flip side of that, there are some off-net chances that we’ve got to start hitting the net on, plain and simple. There are some guys that are just missing the net more often and it doesn’t allow you to get those second chances and stay inside and get those second chances.”
However, what is haunting the Bruins the most this series, is what haunted them all season; the lack of secondary scoring. That is what hurt so much when the Noel Acciari goal was overturned in the second. It was the result of a great tip by the B’s forward, but what was even more uplifting is that it came off a well placed shot from the point by rookie defenseman/future superstar, Charlie McAvoy.
Had that goal stood, the momentum created by the freshman tandem could have been transcendental to a team desperately in need of an offensive infusion. And it could have put pressure on a Sens team who doesn’t play well from behind.
Nevertheless, once replay review once again played a pivotal role in a playoff game, the wind seemed to slip through the Bruins sails. And when Bobby Ryan – who is quickly becoming a villain in Boston – slipped the puck past a prone Tuukka Rask and Zdeno Chara 5:49 into the third period, the die was seemingly cast for the no puck luck Bruins.
When asked about the play that Sens defenseman Erik Karlsson made that led to the dirty Ryan goal, McAvoy said, “Yeah, you know, he got the puck right in the middle there and he kind of looked at the net and shot one off. I mean, he’s a great defenseman so I mean, I guess you’ve got to expect plays like that. It was a bit broken; I don’t think it was clean by any means. It was kind of off his skate, off his stick, and it just hurts. It’s frustrating for sure.”
Hurt and frustrated not only describe the feelings of the Bruins players, it also encapsulates what B’s fans are feeling as well. And should the team not find a way to break the trap in Ottawa on Friday; that pain will continue well into the summer.
Follow on Twitter @KevinMFlanagan. Email at firstname.lastname@example.org.