Haggerty: B's players looking for calls, PP opportunities

Haggerty: B's players looking for calls, PP opportunities
February 25, 2013, 9:15 pm
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UNIONDALE, NY – While the Bruins players and coaching staff was clear to not throw the blame at the feet of the referees, it’s also pretty plain they’re close to a boiling point after watching some tough calls – and non-calls -- over the last week.

The final straw was the refs swallowing their whistles when Milan Lucic was cross-checked from behind into the boards by Mike Weaver in the second period of Sunday’s win over the Florida Panthers. The infraction happened right smack dab in front of referee Mike Hasenfratz, but somehow both Hasenfratz and Chris Lee missed the dangerous play with Lucic in a vulnerable spot 5-10 feet away from the boards while facing the glass.

For a league that’s made a lot of noise about policing hits from behind and dangerous plays that lead to injuries, it was an inexcusable missed call that left one of their signature players unprotected on the ice.

“Hasenfrantz was standing right there…he didn’t really have much of an explanation for me,” said a smiling Lucic. “He didn’t want to talk to me about it.”

So predictably Lucic went ballistic once he saw no penalty was called, and drove Weaver into the ice with his own cross-check earning himself a double-minor for cross-checking and roughing. The Bruins were able to kill off the four minute power play for Florida, but the refs made it worse when they slapped Lucic with a 10-minute misconduct as he continued to bark at Lee from the penalty box.

It’s some kind of unspeakable arrogance for a ref to botch an original call, and then further muck things up by reacting to deserved criticism from an aggrieved player stewing in the penalty box.

But that’s exactly what happened in the closing minutes of the second period with Hasenfrantz and Lee. Lucic only skated a single shift in the third period following the incident, but the Bruins still pulled out the win against a pathetic Panthers club. That incident following up a win over Tampa Bay when the Bruins didn’t earn a single power play certainly raised some eyebrows.

Lucic had calmed down considerably 24 hours later, and said that the refs never offered an apology despite clearly making a mistake that could have cost the Bruins a game if things had broken badly for the Black and Gold.

“They don’t apologize to me ever. I’m still waiting for an apology for getting kicked out of the Vancouver game [last season]. It is what it is right now. All in all I was just glad the guys were able to kill off the four minutes involved and we were able to get a win,” said Lucic, referring to getting booted from last year’s game vs. the Canucks when the refs incorrectly ruled he illegally left the bench to join an altercation. “Clearly I was upset because I obviously thought it was a penalty. Looking at it again I’m sure everybody would agree with me that it was a penalty.

“But I don’t want to blame referees too much. They go by what they see on the ice. They make the best judgment that they can. As players we have to find a way to work with them and not against them. We just expect them to make the right calls and do the best they can. Everybody makes mistakes.”

But it goes beyond just the missed call on Lucic from this weekend.

In their last four games the Bruins have been awarded exactly four power plays – including only two in their last three games amidst a five game road trip. During that same time span Boston’s opposition has been given 12 power plays, which means the Bruins’ opponents are getting three power play chances for every one handed to the B’s.

That’s the kind of ratio that shouldn’t exist over the course of more than a couple of games, and it’s something the Bruins players have clearly noticed.

Some of it is the simple fact the Bruins are at the tail end of a five game roadie and human referees can understandably be swayed by home crowds calling attention to certain plays. But it makes the Bruins also wonder if something more is going on given Boston’s big, bad reputation around the league.

“This is something I’ve never seen before. I’m looking at the other [NHL] games and there so many 5-on-3’s and other power plays. We don’t get anything. I don’t know if the other teams we play against are playing cleaner, but I’ve never seen anything like that,” said Krejci. “You can feel it. As a power play you want to go out there and make some plays. You get the feel for the puck and make some plays.

“In the last few games we could have had way more power plays than we did. I’m not criticizing the refs or anything, but we all know what happened to Looch. He got crushed from behind. I don’t know what it is, but I’m sure it’s going to turn around. We’ll get more power plays. I know we’re an easy team [for other teams] to get up for, and maybe [it’s the same] for the referees because we’re being watched. Sometimes you sit on the bench, see something like that what happened to Looch and you start to think ‘What is going on here?’ It’s frustrating when you don’t get the power plays, and you look for [reasons] why when you don’t get them.”

Krejci was clear to say that he doesn’t think anything funny is going on with the officials, but the NHL has a problem if calls are egregious enough to cause conspiracy thoughts to flash through players’ heads.

Some might say it’s because the Bruins aren’t a diving or flopping team, or that they’re playing too much perimeter hockey. But the very same group of Bruins players earned 15 power plays in the four games prior to the great Boston special teams’ drought of 2013.

Bruins coach Claude Julien opined that it’s a series of factors: the refs are clearly missing some calls and the Bruins could be doing more to draw penalties by moving their feet and powering the puck to the net.

“I think it’s a combination of things. You can always work on trying to create more power plays by taking pucks to the net while making guys drag you down. We’re working on that,” said Claude Julien. “But there are other circumstances that are out of our control. It’s pretty obvious. Just look at [Sunday] and at Lucic’s case. It’s pretty clear we should have been on the power play versus killing off a four minute penalty.

“But we make mistakes during the games and referees are going to make mistakes. You can’t condemn them for that. I’m sure he’s going to look at that and say ‘I made a mistake.’ That’s why I have more patience with that kind of thing, but it was a dangerous hit. That’s why I have no problem with the way Lucic reacted. He’s looking after himself for the right reasons.”

It’s clear the Bruins could always be a little better about drawing penalties, but they are also dead last in the NHL with only 47 power play chances this season. Some of that is explained by the fact they’ve played only 15 games this season, and some of it is not.  

The teams at the top of the NHL rankings have almost twice as many PP chances this season, and that’s an incredibly oddball statistic for a Bruins team that’s been dominant in the majority of the games they’ve played this season.

Most of the Bruins players are probably dead right when they say it will even out over the course of a full NHL season, but nobody would blame any of them if the last four games made them go “Hmmm.”