The Montreal Canadiens earned the top spot in the Eastern Conference on Sunday with 4-3 comeback win over the Boston Bruins. The loss left the Bruins exasperated after the game, with the Canadiens handed five power play opportunities in the game while the home-team Bruins received just two. The Habs were 1-for-5 with the man advantage, with the lone power play tally coming on the first goal of the game in the first period.
The loss itself may have been frustrating for the Bruins yet coach Claude Julien once again took issue with what he perceived as blatant embellishment by the Canadiens players, which he expanded upon in a lengthy post-game rant.
"The frustrating part is that you end with 17 minutes in the penalty box when we should have been on the power play. It's as simple as that," said Julien. "It's frustrating because tonight, as everybody saw, there's a lot of embellishment. This is embarrassing for our game, the embellishing. And right now they've got over 100 power plays so far and it's pretty obvious why. We're trying to clean that out of our game, and its got to be done soon."
Julien then singled out a specific play from the third period, where Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban was checked into the boards by Bruins forward Shawn Thornton, with Subban appearing to launch himself into the glass in an attempt to draw a penalty.
"It's not about tonight; it's about the game and the embellishment embarrasses our game," Julien would continue. "We need to be better than that. It's pretty obvious when P.K. [Subban] gets hit and throws himself into the glass and holds his head."
The Canadiens lead the NHL with 100 power play opportunities and have certainly gained a reputation over the years as a team that does everything possible in order to give itself an advantage -- whether that's through actual hard work and tenacity with the puck or whether it's through what some perceive as fairly blatant attempts to draw penalties through embellishment.
Julien is exactly right, however, when he discusses how these embellishing ways need to be taken out of the game. The NHL has made it know the league and the officials are cracking down on certain penalties and boarding is certainly one of them -- this season it's become commonplace to see players hit the ice quicker than normal, to react as if shot as soon as a stick gets up high or to suddenly drop their stick the moment it's tapped by an opponent.
Players have learned how to game the system -- especially since the last lockout -- and the officials appear either unaware they are being manipulated or the league is more content with hoping for more offense through the increased power play time.
Embellishment has certainly become a serious problem and it does nothing but slow down the legitimate efforts by the league to make the NHL safer for all involved. Deserved or not, it's clear that Julien had had enough and wanted to let it be known things needed to change -- and perhaps it was time for a coach to really lay it out there that the game is headed in the wrong direction in this regard.
Of course, Julien loses a bit of credibility considering the actions of Zdeno Chara in this very game.
With just under five minutes remaining in the second period, Alexei Emelin unleashed a fairly stiff cross check into the side of Tyler Seguin, sending the Bruins forward sliding across the ice and into the boards. Chara wasted little time before jumping Semelin and earning an instigator minor, fighting major and misconduct.
While embellishment is certainly bad for the game, it's tough to defend the actions of Chara as being "good' for game. While Emelin's crosscheck on Seguin is certainly uncalled for and dirty, there's no excuse for a player to attack another player up high and throwing punches before he's even able to begin to defend himself.
Emelin was certainly in the wrong, but that doesn't make Chara's response right.
Nevertheless, this is another interesting chapter in the long rivalry between the two teams and only serves to ratchet up the intensity for future matchups this season.