By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) -- The caption on the St. Louis Post-Dispatch suggested Noel Acciari may have embellished on the controversial missed penalty call late in Game 5. An ESPN analyst declared to a national audience that it "kind of looked like a flop." Locally, Michael Felger apparently insinuated on his postgame show that Acciari took a dive. Scores upon scores of people on Twitter (for what that's worth) have shouted the same.
With all due respect ... such an opinion should be reserved for idiots only.
(What? I said with all due respect. It's in the Geneva Convention!)
On a realer note, I always encourage a potpourri of opinions and ideas in the sports world. Being challenged allows the mind to expand, you know. So it's very rare that I'd dismiss anyone's opinion out of hand.
And, to further that concept, I'd invite anyone who saw Acciari's head slam off the ice after this play ...
... and determined that it was a flop or a dive to do the following.
1. Find a pair of skates and lace them up, if you can figure out how to do so. It is moderately more challenging than tying your shoes.
2. Stand still on a sheet of ice.
3. Wait for a 6-foot-1, 200-pound professional hockey player to skate full-tilt toward you, allowing him to hit the back of your knee with his own knee.
Report back to me what happens. I will wait for your discharge from the emergency room for the full details.
(DO NOT ACTUALLY DO THIS. It is not a good idea. Thank you.)
Realistically, I can't imagine anyone with any real sense believes that a player would or could fake a fall while getting undercut at full speed on a sheet of ice. But in a world of slow-motion, high-definition replays, sometimes the view of reality does get warped.
In any case, if you hear or see anybody indicating this was a flop, please have them follow steps one through three to see if their opinion is molded any differently.
Radical. Now let's hit the leftover thoughts from the Blues' 2-1 win over the Bruins in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final.
--There could be no bigger hardo move than wagging a finger and saying, "The Bruins didn't lose because of a missed penalty call." But ... the Bruins really *didn't* really lose because of a missed penalty call.
It was, of course, a horrible job by referee Kelly Sutherland (and Steve Kozari's not off the hook, either). It was a huge moment. Everyone who's complained has been justified in doing so.
At the same time, the Bruins had precisely zero goals when the missed call took place. They had landed plenty of shots on net, but failed to really make life difficult for Jordan Binnington. They left the front of the net wide open for Ryan O'Reilly to tap-dance on Tuukka Rask's doorstep for a huge goal. They went 0-for-3 on the power play and their top lines continued to go AWOL while 5-on-5. The Bruins played well, but not well enough to win.
The missed penalty call certainly contributed to the loss. Call it what you will -- 10, 20, maybe 30 percent -- but it was not the only or even the main reason why the Bruins will be facing elimination when they next take the ice.
--Craig Berube is really turning into an impressive heel, though. Given his history as a world-class ass-beater with a rocking mullet throughout his playing career, that's not entirely surprising. Nevertheless ...
Berube after Game 3: " I don't agree with all the calls."
Berube after Game 5: " I'm not here to judge the officials."
I know it's driving Bruins fans insane, and I get that. But you have to respect the commitment to the bit, really. Berube is turning out to make for a great bad guy.
--For as bad as it may be to fall behind 3-2 in the Stanley Cup Final, there was a sense in the Bruins dressing room that things were ... fine. Torey Krug spoke for a while about the game, breaking down what went right and what didn't quite go exactly as planned. Tuukka Rask was cool as a cucumber, both when talking to the media and when exiting the building. There was certainly not any sense of panic evident in anybody.
That's with good reason. The Bruins played a much better game in this one than they did in Game 4. In that 4-2 loss in Game 4, the Bruins mustered just 23 shots on goal just one game after chasing Jordan Binnington out of the net. They were never in control in Game 4, and though the score was tight throughout, they were constantly chasing. The Blues deserved that win.
St. Louis still deserved the win in Game 5, but the Bruins have a lot more to feel good about from their performance. I wouldn't be surprised in the least to see a game on Sunday that somewhat resembles Game 3. The Bruins are too good to be kept down for an entire series.
--Jordan Binnington made 38 saves on 39 shots. Tuukka Rask made 19 saves on 21 shots. I think Tuukka was the better goaltender.
Binnington was very good, especially with his positioning on an Acciari redirect and his reflex on a kick save off a Sean Kuraly shot late in the third, but the Bruins never really upped the degree of difficulty for the rookie goaltender.
Rask, meanwhile, had to stop a Bozak bid from the doorstep and a point-blank shot from Jay Bouwmeester. He had to make a post-to-post robbery rob David Perron of a power-play goal.
He also had to stop Vladimir Tarasenko on a partial breakaway and Brayden Schenn on a Grade-A follow-up.
Rask had to stay square to keep an Ivan Barbashev shot from finding the net, and had to fend off a primo opportunity by Tarasenko in the third after his defense left him to fend for himself. Then he had to stop Zach Sanford on a 2-on-1 just to keep the game close.
Rask was, obviously, the major story line for the Bruins heading into this series, yet his role and impact has not been discussed as much recently. I do believe Game 5 was a reminder of how much the Bruins have relied on their goaltender to ensure that every game this postseason remains close. With a goal or two from the top-six forwards, a game like Thursday's goes down as a win.
--That being said, Rask credited David Krejci with making the save of the game.
"He made a great play. I was out, tried to get my stick on it, but he made a great play," Rask said of Krejci's temporary turn as Boston's netminder. "Save of the game."
I know that it's not the correct time to say nice things about David Krejci, who has zero goals and zero assists in 82:53 of ice time and over 11 minutes of power-play time this series. I understand that.
At the same time, watch that again and look at how willing Krejci was to eat that puck. Just days after seeing Zdeno Chara take a puck to the kisser, and seeing all the pain associated with, Krejci didn't hesitate for even a second to stick his face in front of that one.
You'd surely like to see Krejci make it on to the score sheet, but effort like that can't go unnoticed.
--Of course, that save should not have even been necessary, because of what I believe was a missed penalty equally egregious as the missed trip:
Oskar Sundqvist simply grabbed Krug's arm and never let go. It was ... obvious. And yet, no call.
I'm not trying to fly any conspiracy flags here, because I generally believe 99 percent of humans are far too incompetent to actually pull off the wild schemes that sports fans can cook up in such situations. So instead I'll just push exactly that: incompetence.
There are calls and hits and instances of hard contact that can be let go at this time of year. But holding a player and preventing him from participating in a play so that a team may generate a Grade A scoring chance? That is not one of those instances.
--It was so strange when Ryan O'Reilly scored the first goal of the game, because most of the fans in the lower bowl had yet to even return to their seats from the first intermission. Come to think of it, the Bruins themselves had hardly returned from first intermission.
Nevertheless, without a crowd filling the seats, it looked and felt like a goal that you might see scored in a preseason game.
I don't mean to get on anyone's case, but the vendors are going to have to be on the hop if there's a Game 7 next week. These people paid roughly 11 million dollars to attend the game. They need to catch the full 60.
--Ivan Barbashev will have a hearing with the department of player safety for his head shot on Marcus Johansson. He'll probably get suspended. Does that even hurt the Blues?
What would have hurt would have been a penalty. We learned in the Bruins-Blue Jackets series that there's no major penalty for a hit to the head, and that a match penalty can't be assessed without a clear intent to injure. Even still, had the Bruins been given a power play just 5:29 into the game for that clearly illegal hit (the same way Tarasenko drew a two-minute minor in Game 4 despite not getting hit in the head), it may have proved significant in this game.
Barbashev's been a very physical player for St. Louis, but if he's out for Game 6 (or even two games), it won't be the root of their potential downfall. That's basically the standard the NHL allowed to establish itself here. Take a cheap shot, it's worth the risk. There's really not much of a deterrent.
For a league that's purportedly tried hard to limit brain damage, that's not the message you necessarily want to continue.
--That being said, there has been so much good, hard, clean, physical hockey in this series. It's been beautiful to watch, really.
--Protecting the front of the net has become a little bit of an issue for Boston.
Seeing both Chara and Charlie McAvoy behind the goal line indicates that someone screwed up. At the same time, the play was moving quickly, and it's difficult to get overly worked up at either player for trying to pursue Sanford behind the net. Sanford did have to make an unreal pass with two D-men closing in on him, so he deserves the bulk of the credit there.
At the same time ... the front of the net. It's kind of important.
--Don't worry: When they put together the official Stanley Cup film, they can make it seem like this took place before a Bruins victory:
--The Bruins' official Twitter account needs to change its avatar to just a picture of a salt shaker. Or maybe a whole box of salt.
--In any event, Game 6 is Sunday. We all like to say "the Stanley Cup will be in the building," but I feel that's not accurate. From my memory, the broadcast always shows the Cup arriving sometime in the third period if the team leading the series is in a position to win the game. If the team trailing in the series is up by, say, three goals after two periods, then the Cup may stay safely in its hotel room across the street, resting up for a Game 7.
It's up to the Bruins now to determine whether or not the Cup will make its way into the Blues' home arena. After winning the third-most games during the regular season, and after going 12-5 en route to earning a spot in this series, there's enough reason for to believe the Bruins' season will not be coming to an end on Sunday night. As it has been before in this postseason, it's just a matter of the Bruins' best players performing as if they are the Bruins' best players.
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