BOSTON (CBS) — One of the most maddening scenes on an NHL rink takes place when a linesman stands between two centermen, holding the puck out and waiting for one player to flinch too soon so that the man in stripes can kick the guy out of the faceoff. Groans of “drop the puck!” resound through the arena and in living rooms around the country, as most folks just want to see the game, not the linesemen.
Alas, if you plan on watching the rest of the series between the Bruins and the Maple Leafs, prepare for a lot more linesman in your life.
Immediately after Monday night’s game, Tyler Bozak said the Bruins were “cheating” on the dot.
“They’re pretty good at cheating and pretty strong and have good timing, so it’s hard to beat them,” Bozak said, according to the National Post. “They’re the best team in the league at them. They have the best guy in the league, [Patrice] Bergeron. … I thought they were cheating and I tried to cheat.”
Because Bozak used the word “cheat,” his words immediately became a story. In actuality, the word “cheat” might as well have been “trying to win a faceoff,” because it’s really up to the linesmen to determine if a player is “cheating,” and then kick him out accordingly. Anything that doesn’t get a player kicked out of a faceoff shouldn’t be considered cheating, and Bozak’s use of the word wasn’t meant to indict Bergeron or any Bruins center as a criminal.
Nevertheless, the “controversy” has only grown. Leafs coach Randy Carlyle said after the game that the faceoffs were not following the proper order of the visitor putting his stick down before the home team player and that his players felt they were getting kicked out unfairly.
Carlyle reiterated that point Tuesday, after he had spent time reviewing faceoffs on video.
“When you’re at home, you think you would be afforded some of the staples of the opposition having to be down first and stop,” Carlyle said, according to The Boston Globe. “In our review, there were some things going on out there that we don’t agree with, as far as forcing the opposition to stop.”
Bruins coach Claude Julien didn’t get too caught up in the faceoff talk, stating the obvious that Carlyle was just trying to get some help from the officials in Game 4 and beyond.
“I’ve heard a lot about the faceoff issues and I’ve looked at the video, too. It is what it is,” Julien said after Tuesday’s practice. “When you lobby for something it’s because you’re looking for a bit of a break the next game, and that’s what Randy’s doing right now. He’s lobbying for some breaks on the faceoffs.
“It’s going to be interesting to see whether the referees and the linesmen just do their job next game and not worry about who’s crying wolf.”
The “issue” is not restricted to this Bruins-Maple Leafs series. Minnesota Wild coach Mike Yeo said the Blackhawks “did a pretty good job of cheating” at the dot, and Canucks coach Alaign Vigneault said the same thing about San Jose.
The common theme among the three teams complaining about cheating at faceoffs? They are the teams that trail in their series, and the Canucks were eliminated on Tuesday night, so they have all summer to discuss “cheating” on faceoffs.
Carlyle, Bozak and the Leafs are hoping their words help keep their season alive. Considering Bergeron was the best faceoff man in the NHL all year and that the Bruins led the league with a 56.4 percent success rate this season (a full 3 percent better than the second-best team), chances are that their complaints won’t change much.