Harry Sinden was just like the rest of us Wednesday night. He watched the Bruins from the comfort of his home and found himself yelling at the TV as their season ended with a 6-2 loss to the New York Islanders at Nassau Coliseum.
“I was into it pretty good,” Sinden said with a chuckle Thursday morning. “I told my wife, ‘If you don’t like me yelling, you can go upstairs.’ ”
Now 88, Sinden is listed fourth on the Bruins administrative masthead as “Senior Advisor to the Owner and Alternate Governor.” He was Bobby Orr’s first head coach with the Bruins in 1966 and acquired both Cam Neely (trade) and Don Sweeney (draft), the two men who run the Bruins for Jeremy Jacobs in 2021.
Sinden coached the Orr Stanley Cup champions in 1970 and was with the Bruins in Vancouver when the Black and Gold won their last Cup in 2011.
Harry’s opinion on who should have been in goal for the Bruins at the start of Game 6?
“I don’t want to answer that,” said Sinden. “You have to be sitting in the locker room to make that call. That’s a tough call. I understand that it’s tough for a coach to take out the guy you perceive to be your No. 1 goalie. Obviously, everybody would have liked to have seen the backup guy go, but I wouldn’t criticize that move.”
The “backup guy” was rookie Jeremy Swayman. Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy went with veteran Tuukka Rask, even though Rask appeared to be injured and had a subpar Game 5 in a 5-4 loss. Late Wednesday, after the Bruins were eliminated, Rask confirmed he could be headed for surgery, but issued no detail on his injury.
“That’s a little different,” acknowledged Sinden, sounding like many Bruins fans. “You’ve got to come clean on that.
“There’s always three factors in these playoffs. There’s injuries, goaltending, and officiating. We missed a couple of those defensemen [Brandon Carlo, Kevan Miller] who play a lot of minutes. I’d have to give the edge to their goalie, that’s for sure.
“As for the officiating — I don’t mean the officials, I mean the ‘officiating’ — there’s kind of a standard of rule enforcement that I don’t agree with. It didn’t play a big part in this series, but it played a part.
“The bar is so low as to when to call a penalty or not that you actually can call anything and never get under the bar. The smallest little touch of a stick on another stick can be called a hook. It’s the same as a hook even though a hook is sometimes around the throat.
“So that’s what we’re dealing with. And that’s a deterrent to the speed and the grace of the game and now we penalize them.”
Sinden was famous for engaging in the gamesmanship we heard when Cassidy and New York’s Barry Trotz issued dueling remarks about the officials during the series. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman fined Cassidy $25,000 for his comments.
“Since Bettman’s come aboard, there’s some value in a coach making some remarks about officiating,” said Sinden. “There’s definitely a checks-and-balance feature to it. It’s the words you use or the extent you go to that bothers Bettman. He’s been pretty adamant about that.”
So what happened in this series?
“I was worried sick we were going to get Pittsburgh and then we got the Islanders and they ended up being tougher for us than Pittsburgh probably would have been,” Sinden said.
“I really thought we were pretty equally balanced teams. I think the game they played and the periods when they played their best were very much like the way we played when we won. You really only play as well as the other team lets you.
“There were stretches when we dominated and looked like the better team. It’s easy to say that we dominated and didn’t score. But scoring’s part of it. You’ve got to be able to finish. [Taylor] Hall showed a bit of that when we first got him, but they were able to control him in this series.
“We faltered on the forward lines in terms of goal scoring. You can’t underestimate the value of scoring goals. That’s what wins games. We didn’t get nearly enough goals out of not just the bottom two lines but the bottom three lines, really.
“We got good, hard play. What the team counts on from those bottom-six forwards is a goal here or there that can really help out. I don’t think we got enough of that. You’ve got to have at least two lines that can score. I’m not diminishing the other lines. I’ve just saying that we didn’t get enough goals out of them.”
The Bruins won the Cup in Brad Marchand’s rookie season 10 years ago. Rask was a backup on that team, which featured star centers Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci. Together, they have advanced to three Cup Finals and won one, but they have made it past the second round just once since 2013. Bergeron is going into his 18th season, and Rask and Krejci are free agents.
“They were a terrific group and still are,” said Sinden.
“I wouldn’t start over with this team. We had a very entertaining team and an absolutely great and entertaining player in Marchand. And Bergy, of course. [Charlie] McAvoy developed into one of the best defensemen in the league this year. But we’re short of a full squad of 20.
“It obviously didn’t finish too well, but we just need to find more secondary scoring.”