BOSTON — The deeper the playoff run, the harder it is to harness your emotions.
That’s just what this tense second-round series between the Bruins and Islanders has shown heading into Game 6 Wednesday night at Nassau Coliseum, where the Islanders will have a chance to advance to the Stanley Cup semifinals against either the Lightning or Hurricanes.
The Islanders and Bruins have both come so close to winning it all in the last three seasons that they will do, and say, anything that they can to pull the series in their favor. That can happen when you’ve watched Lord Stanley get handed over to your opponents, in the Bruins’ case in 2019, or when you’ve fallen short to the eventual champions, in the Islanders’ case in 2020.
Still, the team on the other bench is always going to take exception to any snide remarks or attempt to influence the perception of the series. And, so will the NHL.
Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy was fined $25,000 for his critical comments of the officiating in his postgame press conference following the Islanders’ 5-4 win in Game 5 Monday night. After watching his team, which had the second most effective penalty kill in the league this season, give up three power-play goals, Cassidy said the Isles “sell a narrative over there that it’s more like the New York Saints, not the New York Islanders.”
The power-play disparity after five games into this series is four – 15 for the Islanders and 11 for the Bruins. Asked about his expensive postgame complaints, Cassidy said it was more-so in reference to the Islanders, not the referees, and head coach Barry Trotz’s previous comments pointing out that Bruins captain Patrice Bergeron “knows how to cheat” on faceoffs.
“I’m always going to protect my captain,” Cassidy said Tuesday. “Listen, we’re in front of the cameras a lot and the media, it’s an entertainment business. It’s been a good series, so there’s been a little bit of that back and forth. Obviously, I felt there were some calls that didn’t go our way that have gone against us when it comes to high sticks.
“I was held accountable for it. When you get fined you say something to the effect of ’embarrassing’ or ‘a joke’ and I didn’t say any of that.”
After Trotz essentially called for the officials to take note of Bergeron’s tactics from the dots ahead of Game 5 at TD Garden, the Bruins’ top-line center was tossed from the first faceoff he took Monday night – and a few more after that.
“Have a little respect for Patrice Bergeron,” Cassidy quipped after the game.
Trotz didn’t have much to say in response to Cassidy’s postgame remarks, except that the Islanders were one of the least penalized teams in the NHL this season. But when asked to follow up on his targeted observations of Bergeron, Trotz stood behind them.
“That’s a comment I would make to every veteran center in this league,” he said Tuesday. “You always look for an edge and he’s very good…You asked me honestly what I thought and I told you.”
Harsh words are beginning to fly just as ruthlessly as the hits.
“He said it was a veteran play,” Bergeron said of Trotz. “I think it’s a veteran play by him as a coach to talk to try to get the linesmen and the officiating to think about it.”