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.