Old Time Hockey

Are the big, bad Bruins being targeted by the refs?

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The Boston Bruins played another dumb game last night in Montreal, where the defending Cup champs put themselves shorthanded six times, surrendering two power-play goals on their way to a 4-2 defeat.

Following the loss that dropped the Bruins to 3-7-0, the second-worst mark in the NHL, captain Zdeno Chara was forced to address the issue of team discipline.

“I don’t think guys really want to take some bad penalties, it’s just the way it’s happening,” Chara told reporters. “There are a lot of emotions involved in these games and sometimes guys do things that are just automatic. I’m sure that if you would ask them they would take those things back. It’s O.K. to play with emotions but you have to be smart about it.”

When asked about Milan Lucic’s minor penalty for slashing Montreal’s P.K. Subban behind the play, Boston coach Claude Julien echoed his captain’s sentiments.

“If we’re not smart enough to take that responsibility not to get goaded in, that’s our problem,” Julien said.

Subban embellished the slash, to be sure, but that’s the risk Lucic ran when he decided to give the Montreal defenseman a love tap on the back of the leg. Subban has been known to embellish. It’s kind of his thing.

But is it just the Bruins playing dumb hockey, or is there something more to the story?

CSSNE.com’s Joe Haggerty thinks the B’s are being targeted by the NHL after “they bullied their way to a Stanley Cup championship over the Vancouver Canucks.”

One of the iconic images from last year’s Cup Finals was Brad Marchand punching the closest available Sedin with five or six jabs to the head while A) the refs refused to call any penalties and B) Sedin refused to protect himself or engage with Marchand when nobody came to his defense. Even better was Marchand’s “because I felt like it” defense.

Now it looks like the league is keeping close tabs on Boston this season via their refereeing crews. The refs have called a bevy of penalties on the Black and Gold in the early portions of the season, and that has played into Boston’s difficulties.

The Bruins were whistled for eight penalties and 19 penalty minutes in a 4-2 loss to the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre on Saturday night, and at least three of the calls were retaliatory penalties after the B’s truly lost their cool.

For the record, Marchand received a roughing minor for giving Sedin the speed-bag treatment. Say what you will about Sedin’s lack of response, but a Vancouver power play was exactly what he was hoping for by not reacting. Marchand’s “because I felt like it” defense was certainly revealing in that it summed up a lot of what happened in the series, but were the Bruins able to take liberties with Vancouver players because the Canucks weren’t manly enough to fight back, or were they able to take liberties because the Canucks couldn’t score on the power play the way they’d done all season?

This isn’t bitterness from a Vancouver guy, by the way. The Bruins deserved to win the Cup. However, I would suggest the Bruins took liberties in the Cup finals because they weren’t paying a price on the scoreboard. And it was a good strategy against Vancouver. But it didn’t work last night. And it sure didn’t work Oct. 18 against Carolina.

Boston hosts Ottawa on Tuesday at TD Garden. If the Bruins are smart, they’ll knock it off with all the penalties. The Senators have the second-best power play (29.0%) in the NHL.

Hitch’s recipe for more goals is a pretty simple one

Ken Hitchcock, David Backes, Dmitrij Jaskin, Paul Stastny, Patrik Berglund
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Ken Hitchcock wants the Blues to spend more time attacking and less time defending.

Because hockey isn’t rocket science, that’s why.

“To score and win games in the National Hockey League…you have to spend as much time in the offensive zone as you can,” Hitchcock told the Post-Dispatch.

“When you’re occupying the offensive zone more, you’re forechecking more. When you’re occupying the offensive zone more, the goalie has to make saves. They’re having to defend more. And the opposing team takes penalties on you. So they’re all connected. … What I want to see from us is staying on the puck for longer stretches.”

According to the stats, the Blues have not been spending as much time in the offensive zone as we’re used to seeing from them. In fact, in their last 20 games, they rank in the bottom third of the league in score-adjusted Corsi. That compares to their first 20 games when they were in the top third.

The result is fewer shots, and more importantly, fewer goals. The Blues have fallen all the way to 25th in offense, averaging just 2.37 goals per game. Last year, they finished fifth (2.91).

Yes, some of that may be due to the absence of Jaden Schwartz, and he should be back soon. But there’s a reason people are watching GM Doug Armstrong as the Feb. 29 trade deadline approaches. This team could probably use another piece up front.

The Blues host Minnesota Saturday.

St. Louis has scored just five goals in its last five games.

Goalie nods: Lindback ‘really excited’ for first start in almost three weeks

Anders Lindback
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Tonight in Anaheim, Anders Lindback will make his first start for the Arizona Coyotes since Jan. 16.

The Coyotes have been riding rookie Louis Domingue since just before Christmas, but Domingue has allowed five goals in each of his last three starts, including last night’s 5-4 loss to Chicago.

Lindback’s last appearance came Tuesday in relief, when he allowed one goal on 10 shots in a 6-2 loss to the Kings.

Lindback was in goal for one of Arizona’s three victories this season over Anaheim, stopping 33 of 36 shots in a 4-3 overtime win on Nov. 9. However, his .896 save percentage ranks among the lowest in the league.

Frederik Andersen is expected to start for the Ducks.

Elsewhere…

— No word yet on a Penguins starter in Tampa, but Ben Bishop will go for the Bolts.

Cam Ward will start for the Hurricanes in Winnipeg, where Connor Hellebuyck is expected for the increasingly desperate Jets.

— Joonas Korpisalo was solid last night in Vancouver, but the Blue Jackets have not announced their starter for tonight’s game in Calgary. Karri Ramo will be in goal for the Flames.

A ‘pretty solid two-way player,’ Sundqvist to make NHL debut for Penguins

Pittsburgh Penguins' Oskar Sundqvist (49) collides with Minnesota Wild's Jason Zucker (16) in the first period of a NHL preseason hockey game in Pittsburgh, Thursday, Sept. 25, 2014. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
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The latest Penguins injuries, these ones to Evgeni Malkin and Eric Fehr, have led to an opportunity for Oskar Sundqvist.

Sundqvist will make his NHL debut for the Penguins tonight in Tampa. The 21-year-old center has five goals and 11 assists in 39 AHL games this season.

“Sunny’s a pretty solid two-way player,” coach Mike Sullivan said, per the Tribune-Review.

“I don’t think he’s going to dazzle you with flashy plays, but I think he’s a guy who plays the game the right way. He’s hard to play against because of his size. He’s got a long reach, and he’s got a good stick.”

Sundqvist was selected 81st overall by the Pens in 2012. He’ll become the fourth player out of that Pittsburgh draft class to make his NHL debut, after Olli Maatta, Derrick Pouliot, and Matt Murray.

Veteran Matt Cullen will replace Malkin on the second line, skating with wingers Carl Hagelin and Phil Kessel.

Related: Nick Bonino out ‘at least a month’ with hand injury

John Scott’s wife gives birth to twin girls

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As if John Scott wasn’t already having a great week, now he’s the proud father of twin girls.

The Montreal Canadiens shared the good news via their Twitter account today.

Scott, the unlikely 2016 All-Star Game MVP, is currently back home in Michigan; however, he’s expected to resume his career at some point with Montreal’s AHL affiliate in St. John’s, Newfoundland.

When, exactly, he suits up for the IceCaps remains to be seen, but it won’t be tonight or tomorrow.

Related: Therrien on Canadiens possibly recalling John Scott: ‘You never know’