Bruins GM has interesting response to controversial Game 4 call

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The Boston Bruins have been on the wrong end of a couple questionable calls in their Eastern Conference second-round series versus the Florida Panthers.

Panthers forward Sam Bennett appeared to punch Brad Marchand in the head during the first period of Game 3, but he escaped a penalty. He also wasn’t fined or suspended by the NHL’s Department of Player Safety.

Bennett also was involved in a controversial call in Game 4 when he cross-checked Bruins center Charlie Coyle into goaltender Jeremy Swayman, thus preventing him from being able to make a save. Bennett pounced on the loose puck and scored to tie the game at 2-2 in the third period. The Bruins challenged the play for goalie interference but lost.

In its explanation of the ruling, the league said: “Video review supported the referees’ call on the ice that that the shove by Florida’s Sam Bennett on Charlie Coyle and the subsequent contact with Jeremy Swayman did not prevent Swayman from playing his position in the crease prior to Bennett’s goal.”

The Panthers ultimately won 3-2 to take a commanding 3-1 series lead.

Bruins general manager Don Sweeney held a press conference Monday before the team departed for Florida ahead of Tuesday night’s Game 5. He wasn’t super critical of the league or the officials, but he does want those parties to stand in front of a microphone and answer the questions when appropriate.

“The overall premise that I have, to be perfectly honest with you, is we should not be asking the coach after the game what they feel about the officiating and what happens,” Sweeney said. “You guys should really be focused on what we didn’t do well over the course of the game to win a hockey game.

“Those questions should be directed at either the supervisor of officials, the supervisor of the series, and/or the officials. If you want full access and transparency, then put the officials in front of the microphone to answer the question. They’re the only ones who have the experience to be able to handle whatever interpretation they applied to Rule 69 in that case. That’s it.

“Clearly we challenged it because of our interpretation. The only ones who can answer that — don’t put out a statement, just stand in front and answer the question.”

For starters, there’s no reason why a coach shouldn’t be asked about the officiating after a game, especially when the coach makes the decision to challenge a call that one of the referees made. The coach should be asked to explain why he challenged the play and what explanation the officials gave him.

But Sweeney’s point about the league officials and/or the referees themselves answering questions about certain calls does make a lot of sense. It would increase transparency and accountability if the league and the referees did that.

Sweeney did say that topic has been discussed at previous General Manager Meetings. But obviously, not a ton of traction has been made to this point on putting something in place.

The easiest solution is to have a pool reporter speak to one of the referees postgame. The NFL does this, for example. One reporter will ask a referee a few questions about a specific call/decision that was a huge storyline from the game. The NBA does something similar as well. The NHL should, too.

Even though the officiating hasn’t been great in this series, the real problem for the Bruins is their lack of offense. They have scored two or fewer goals in three of the four games against the Panthers. They’ve also tallied 18 or fewer shots in each of the last three games. That’s nowhere near good enough versus a Panthers team loaded with elite offensive players.

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