After a 4-3 home loss Sunday evening, Boston Bruins head coach Claude Julien went on somewhat of a retrained tirade, accusing Montreal Canadiens’ players of embellishing on the ice to draw penalties. Julien specifically singled out Montreal blueliner P.K. Subban, who at this point, should be getting quite accustomed to being singled out by coaches.
Embellishment, which can consist of a player over-reacting to minimal contact or faking injury to draw a penalty, is a thespian craft which has been mastered by many soccer players throughout the world. The affliction is usually league-wide and not isolated to just a few teams.
It is rather odd that Julien preferred to obsess in his post-game presser over an issue which had little or nothing to do with the outcome of the contest. The absolute sorry state of officiating in the league is a much bigger threat to the league’s product than some embellishment by players from time to time.
For example, the entire Zdeno Chara vs. Alexei Emelin affair would not have transpired if the officials had not missed Emelin snapping his stick with a two-hander across Tyler Seguin’s ribs. When the officials failed to take control of the situation at that instant, Chara stepped in and engaged in some rather uneventful fisticuffs with Emelin, which were not really main event material.
If there is one team which has absolutely no issue with the horrid officiating in the NHL, it is the Canadiens, who have benefited from some rather dodgy calls this season. From a phantom goaltender interference, to a blown icing call, to a two-minute minor for drawing blood with a premeditated headhunt, the Habs have parlayed their aggressive productive play and good fortune with the zebras into a first place start. This proves once again, it does not really matter how you get to first place…as long as you get there.
In his controlled outburst, Julien referenced the Habs having the most power play opportunities in the league with 100, with Boston having the fewest at 61. Although embellishment may play a role in certain penalties, most of the penalties have been drawn by good old-fashioned energetic hustle, creating scoring threats which need to be neutralized by penalties. And when you sprinkle in a few calls which have gone the Habs way, it is not too difficult to see why the Habs are rocking the power play attempts.
The Canadiens are a well coached and tightly disciplined outfit which is earning respect around the league with its solid play. As with any sport, the officials will only give a team the benefit of the doubt on calls if they have earned some prestige and respect. This is why good teams get breaks from officials and bad teams do not.
How many phantom calls from referees did former Boston Celtics legend Larry Bird get while playing for a storied NBA franchise because he had earned his stripes as a top player in the sport? Boston fans should not be complaining when it comes to favoritism by officials, because they have seen their share of it benefiting their teams.
For now, with their first place ranking, the Canadiens have earned their right to embellish; regardless of what Julien thinks.