The Hurricanes did not lose Game 1 because of the officials, nor did the Bruins win game 1 because of them But man, that was an ugly night for the men in stripes.
From some of the penalties that were called, to the ones that were not, it was an embarrassing night for the league in what is starting to become a common theme in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
From playoff upsets, to double-overtime thrillers, the 2019 postseason has been one of the most exciting in recent memory.
But a massive black cloud continues to hang over the Stanley Cup Playoffs: the officiating. And because of that, it’s been the most talked about topic following the majority of playoff hockey games.
I hate to harp on referees in any sport. Their job is extremely difficult, and no matter how clear the infraction or how the rule is written that they are simply following, one fan base will always disagree.
Twitter, message boards, sports talk radio and all the above. All people want to talk about is the officiating that took place Thursday night in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
Holding a 2-1 lead after a dominating second period, the Hurricanes took three separate penalties in the first 5:29 of the third period.
After struggling to get any tempo going on their first two power plays of the game, the Bruins went on to score twice on their three third period power plays. Those game-tying and game-winning power play strikes went onto to be the difference in what ended up as a 5-2 victory for the Bruins.
“There were penalties both ways I thought, some were called and not called,” head coach Rod Brind’Amour said following the loss. “So I mean there’s no point in getting into the officiating.”
Following Steven Kampfer opening the scoring 2:55 into the contest, the Hurricanes got their first crack at trying to solve Bruins’ goalie Tuukka Rask on the power play, as Sean Kuraly was penalized with a rough.
Three seconds after the penalty, Sebastian Aho tipped an Andrei Svechnikov point shot past Rask, tying the game at one.
The sequence leading up to Kuraly’s punch on Brock McGinn was the first of many questionable decisions by the referees. Kuraly’s punch was an obvious call, but it was Kuraly retaliating to what he and the Bruins felt was a hit up high to Kuraly’s chin.
After Aho’s power play goal, the game shifted in favor of the Hurricanes who, if it were not for Rask, would have carried a multi-goal lead into the third period.
But things completely unraveled for the ‘Canes in the third, starting with Jordan Staal’s boarding penalty on Chris Wagner. One of the few calls of the evening that I thought was a legitimate penalty. With Staal in the box, the Bruins were able to tie the game on Marcus Johansson’s goal.
The next sequence that led to another Bruins power play was another head scratcher.
After Kuraly was not penalized for this:
Dougie Hamilton was penalized for this:
Fifteen seconds later, Patrice Bergeron gave the Bruins the lead for good.
Nearly three minutes after Bergeron’s goal, Hamilton was back in the box, this time for his interference infraction on David Backes. Another call that I would have been okay with had it not been called.
“Well, I just watched both of them, so I didn’t agree with either, so not much else to say,” Hamilton said following the game. “The game’s over now, and nothing we can do about it now.”
Regardless of whether they were good calls or not, Brind’Amour knows that when penalties are called, they have to kill them off.
“We took penalties and we need to kill them. Whether they are good or not or they let some go that should have been called,” said Brind’Amour. “I mean that’s going to happen every night so we need to come up with a better way to kill them and then when we get our power plays we need to make them count.”
The Hurricanes were on the positive side of missed calls as well. What looked like a Warren Foegele slew foot on Torey Krug went uncalled.
There was also a blatant ‘Canes high stick on David Pastrnak behind the Carolina net in the second period that went uncalled. Just two more instances on a long list of mistakes by the on-ice officials.
As much as the Hurricanes may disagree with some of the calls that went against them in Game 1, they know it’s a long series and as long as they get back to their game they’ll be just fine.
“Yeah, I mean, obviously them getting two power-play goals kind of put us back on our heels a little bit,” said Greg McKegg who scored Carolina’s second goal of the evening. “You know, it happens. It’s going to be a long series, so we’ve just got to get back out on Sunday.”
The Hurricanes can take many positives into Game 2 on Sunday. I thought Aho was outstanding in Game 1. His speed was an issue for the Bruins and will be something the ‘Canes will look to take advantage of.
Carolina can also look to a successful second period to see what worked for them. When they were all over the Bruins, not giving them much space to work with, the ‘Canes were at their best. Being able to lock down time and space in their own zone allowed for the Hurricanes to with the transition battles and create offensive zone time. There were several instances of the Hurricanes exposing the wide open middle of the Bruins’ offensive zone.
Despite the breakdowns in the third period, the Hurricanes know they can skate with the Bruins and are by no means out of this series.
"We took a couple penalties against that good power play and that cost us the game,” said Aho."It was right there for us, but we've got to learn from this and come back whenever is the next game."