Patrice Bergeron raised his arm to celebrate what he believed was a game-tying goal. After getting the green light from video coordinator J.P. Buckley that Bergeron’s goal was good, Claude Julien gave a thumbs-up. Of all the angles available to Buckley, he was most likely looking at a NESN shot, from the left side of the offensive zone, that appeared to show the puck tucked against Roberto Luongo’s right pad and over the goal line.
Things were not proceeding the same way in Toronto.
It’s impossible to project the outcome if, on March 24 at TD Garden, the Bruins tied the game at 2-2 at 8:03 of the third period. There was a good chance, however, they could have grabbed at least one point against the Panthers.
Instead, officials in the NHL’s situation room upheld the on-ice call of no goal by referees Kelly Sutherland and Wes McCauley. Florida scored two more times to grab a 4-1 win. What could have been at least one precious point turned into nothing.
As firmly as the Bruins believed Bergeron had scored, Mike Murphy, senior vice president of hockey operations, and his colleagues could not confirm the puck had completely crossed the line.
“We looked at the play from all different angles,” said Murphy, who was in the room that night. “There were a lot of cameras that night — post cameras, overhead, in the net, all the live game feeds. We could never get the puck over the goal line conclusively. Our mantra is, ‘Can we show [Florida general manager] Dale Tallon that this puck was over the goal line?’ The answer is, ‘No, we can’t.’ It was a busy night. We had a large group in there. It was an inconclusive play. We can’t overrule the referees. It’s that simple.”
The sequence started after Luongo stopped a Lee Stempniak shot. Bergeron, who had scooted around the net, whacked the rebound toward the goal. Sutherland, skating down the right wall, was the closer referee. But Sutherland couldn’t get a good look because Luongo’s back was to the referee. By the time Sutherland approached the back of the net, the play was dead. Neither Sutherland nor McCauley signaled a good goal.
It was then up to Toronto to find conclusive evidence to overturn the on-ice call.
The league is responsible for cameras in three locations in each arena: net, goal posts, and overhead. The situation room can also access the feeds from the networks covering each game. NESN typically has 15-17 cameras for Garden games, a high number for a regional network. Not all of the cameras, however, follow the puck and are available for goal reviews.
In the situation room, one NHL staffer monitors each game. Multiple monitors, one as large as a 90-inch display, are put to use. When reviews take place, more eyeballs help out.
In this case, given the review’s degree of difficulty, Murphy gave it a look. So did executive vice president and director of hockey operations Colin Campbell, senior vice president of hockey operations Kris King, and goaltending supervisor Kay Whitmore.
“We’ve worked together for so long that when we see plays like this,” Murphy said, “we realize right away it’s going to be difficult.”
The post cameras, located 24 inches off the ice, were not helpful. Luongo had sealed off one post, obscuring the shot. His body was blocking the camera in the other post. The in-net camera was not of use because Luongo’s right pad was positioned over the puck. The overhead was the clearest, but it still couldn’t help them see the puck over the line.
“We chased down all the angles,” Murphy said. “Nothing gave us conclusive proof.”
Had Sutherland and McCauley called it a good goal, their call would have been upheld. Just as replays didn’t show the puck completely crossing the line, none showed, to the eyes in Toronto, that it stayed out of the net either.
Murphy, Campbell, King, and Whitmore agreed that none of them could see the puck crossing the line. So they informed Sutherland via headset that the original call stood because video review was inconclusive.
“We always want to have a conclusive decision,” Murphy said. “We were all united in the fact we couldn’t find the puck over the line.”
The Bruins couldn’t believe it. When Julien saw the replay on the scoreboard, he raised his hands, pointed to the screen, and said, “What the [expletive] is that?”
The process continues to evolve. For the playoffs, the league is planning to shift the post cameras into the crossbar on all nets. The NHL is hoping to position two cameras at each blue line to capture offside for coach’s challenges. For future seasons, the league is exploring tracking technology to embed in pucks that would reduce its reliance on video.
That the league is improving the process for the playoffs, however, does not address its drawbacks during the regular season. For some teams, one or two more points would have been most welcome.
WORKING TWO JOBS
Worlds, playoffs on Peters’s mind
It’s been a good second season in Carolina for Bill Peters. Had the up-and-coming Hurricanes gotten consistent goaltending from Cam Ward (.909 save percentage through 52 appearances) or Eddie Lack (.903), the Hurricanes may have qualified for the playoffs, even after trading Eric Staal. They played with pace and skill on the back end with Justin Faulk, Ron Hainsey, and Noah Hanifin leading the way. Up front, Peters had his forwards thinking offense and transition. Hockey Canada noted Peters’s work by designating the second-year Carolina coach to lead the federation’s entry in the upcoming World Championships.
Peters will be busy monitoring play on two continents. When the playoffs start, Peters and assistant coaches Rod Brind’Amour and Steve Smith will split up the eight series, monitor their progress, and mine them for information to use in 2016-17.
“The first round’s awesome, in my opinion,” Peters said. “You’ve got everyone relatively fresh as they can be. As it goes along, it gets to be a real grind. Early on, there’s some interesting matchups and things. So you try and watch a little bit of everything. I’ll assign all eight series to some of our coaches. We’ll split up the workload and get a feel for every series. We’ve got to get better in certain areas. We’ll do some studies in the offseason on some things we learn in the playoffs.”
While Carolina’s staff watches the playoffs, Peters and Team Canada assistants Mike Yeo and Dave Cameron will huddle in Raleigh in the upcoming days to prepare for the international tournament. Last year, Peters and Peter DeBoer served as assistants to Todd McLellan, an experience the Carolina coach hailed as an instructive one in terms of thinking about the game.
If Peters and his Carolina colleagues can straighten out Lack or acquire a better No. 1 goalie, they’ll be in good shape for 2016-17. Faulk, Hanifin, Jordan Staal, and Elias Lindholm are solid foundational players. Jeff Skinner is back to playing like a hungry and dangerous offensive threat. The Hurricanes play an up-tempo, modern game. Peters deserves a lot of the credit.
None better than Quenneville
The NHL Broadcasters’ Association is responsible for selecting the recipient of the Jack Adams Award. In past seasons, Bob Hartley (2015) and Patrick Roy (2014) have won Coach of the Year honors because they’ve helped their teams net results they weren’t expected to hit. It is laughable that Joel Quenneville hasn’t won the Jack Adams since 2000, when he was coaching in St. Louis two jobs ago.
During Quenneville’s eight-year reign in Chicago, the Blackhawks have won three Stanley Cups, which reflects well on their roster. Every coach would love to have Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and Marian Hossa on his bench.
But Quenneville has done a superb job keeping his star players hungry to chase a fourth Cup when three rings would keep most anybody satisfied. He’s also managed his roster to stay fresh despite the 100 playoff tilts they have accumulated since 2010 — a span in which Jordan Eberle, as an example, has never appeared in a postseason game. Throw in the Olympic participation of Quenneville’s heavy lifters and you’ve got a serious overtime charge for which the Blackhawks should be liable for time-and-a-half pay.
Where Quenneville has excelled is how he’s figured out the most efficient approaches to scoring. No team gets to its rush game more rapidly than Chicago. The Blackhawks retrieve pucks swiftly and send them up to their in-flight forwards. It’s easier to produce offense consistently in transition, when multiple things can go wrong on defense. The Blackhawks are built with this system in mind, from Keith and Seabrook on the back end to Kane, Toews, and Artemi Panarin up front.
But Quenneville’s best work has been offensive-zone innovation. No team plays like Chicago once it gains the offensive blue line. This is when the Blackhawks apply their Rubik’s Cube offense — clicking and twisting and moving until everything falls into place. It doesn’t matter whether an opponent goes with zone or man-to-man defense. It’s dizzying to watch, to say nothing of defend, the Blackhawks when they launch their O-zone swoop game, where defensemen act as forwards and vice versa.
The NHL is good at copying. No other coach has been able to mimic Quenneville’s system. That’s the definition of a brilliant coach.
Upgrades coming in Edmonton
Peter Chiarelli is retracing old footsteps in Edmonton. Chiarelli missed the playoffs in his first season as Oilers GM, just like he did in Boston in 2006-07. If Chiarelli follows his previous blueprint, he will address his team’s defense heading into 2016-17. In the second half of his first season in Boston, Chiarelli acquired Andrew Ference, Dennis Wideman, Aaron Ward, and Adam McQuaid in a three-month span. Coincidence or not, Chiarelli’s defense needs fixing once more, and he has the up-front assets required to repair the blue line. First, Chiarelli will buy out Ference, who has one season remaining on his contract. He will say goodbye to unrestricted free agents-to-be Nikita Nikitin, Eric Gryba, and Adam Pardy. Chiarelli will hold onto youngsters Oscar Klefbom and Darnell Nurse, but every other defenseman’s job is up for grabs. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Eberle, and Nail Yakupov are the forwards who would bring back the best blue-line return for the Oilers. They’re all holdovers from former GM Craig MacTavish’s watch. Chiarelli will not be shy to send them out for back-end help.
Good early reports on Gostisbehere
In hindsight, it’s surprising that Shayne Gostisbehere lasted until the third round in 2012. Every team wants a dynamic, hard-charging, and creative offensive defenseman like Gostisbehere. Yet Gostisbehere’s size (he’s now listed at 5 feet 11 inches, 180 pounds) muddied viewings to the point where it took over the conversation, despite the signs he was showing as a freshman at Union College. Here’s one longtime scout’s report from November 2011, when Gostisbehere was just one month into his first college season: “Very good skater both forward and backward. He has excellent balance and a good first step. He keeps his head on a swivel and surveys his situation well. He supports his partner and makes a good, hard, to-the-tape first pass. He kept his game simple and his shifts were kept short. Was caught on a bad pinch in the neutral zone in the first period, but recovered with his skating ability to force his man to the corner. He was a little tentative after that while defending. Was on the first PP unit and showed good puck skills and offensive hockey sense in this situation, especially knowing when to join the rush or carry the puck into the offensive zone. He was more and more confident doing this as the game progressed. Not the biggest player but went hard to the corners and did not shy away from the tough areas.”
Reimer adjusted well after trade
James Reimer could be the hottest goalie on the free market come July 1. The ex-Toronto puck-stopper’s price continues to rise following his trade to the Sharks, who might be considering him over short-term Bruin Martin Jones as their starter for the first round of the playoffs. It’s hard for goalies to adjust to new systems following in-season trades (see Ryan Miller in St. Louis). But Reimer has been excellent since landing in San Jose. In Toronto, Reimer was 11-12-7 with a 2.49 GAA and .918 save percentage. In eight starts in San Jose, Reimer has gone 6-2-0 with a 1.62 GAA and .938 save percentage. The Sharks are better than the Maple Leafs, which explains part of Reimer’s results. It’s proof for Calgary and Carolina, two clubs in need of a starter, that Reimer could be worthy of a long-term investment.
Vancouver satisfied with Boeser
Brock Boeser, drafted No. 23 by Vancouver last June, has progressed to the point where the Canucks would entertain the conversation if the North Dakota freshman decided to turn pro in 2016-17. The 19-year-old right-shot forward entered Saturday night’s NCAA championship game with 26 goals and 30 assists for a team-leading 56 points in 41 games. The right wing has had success while playing on North Dakota’s first line with Drake Caggiula and Nick Schmaltz. The Canucks consider Boeser as a top-six NHL forward, an asset they need to green a roster. Alex Burrows (34) and Chris Higgins (33 in June) are among the elder wings with term remaining on their contracts. The Canucks, however, are not pushing Boeser to leave school. They would not be against Boeser returning to Grand Forks for his sophomore season.
AHL in Murray’s rearview
Matt Murray last played an AHL game on Feb. 26, when he stopped 32 of 34 shots in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s 3-2 win over Portland. It was Murray’s final game of his AHL career. The 21-year-old has proven he’s ready to serve as Marc-Andre Fleury’s full-time backup next season and perhaps even his future replacement as Pittsburgh’s ace. In 12 NHL games this season, Murray went 9-2-1 with a 2.05 GAA and .927 save percentage. Murray, Pittsburgh’s third-round pick in 2012, is under contract next year for just $620,000, according to generalfanager.com. Murray’s play and his contract will allow Pittsburgh to say goodbye to journeyman Jeff Zatkoff after this season.
Perhaps the biggest myth regarding Claude Julien is how he hasn’t coached young players well. Consider the identities and ages of some of the players Julien coached when they became full-time NHLers: David Pastrnak (18), Milan Lucic (19), David Krejci (21), Brad Marchand (22), Tuukka Rask (22), Torey Krug (22), Patrice Bergeron (23), Ryan Spooner (23), and Adam McQuaid (24) . . . According to Sportsnet, Pavel Datsyuk is considering playing in Russia next year for family reasons. Datsyuk is under contract with the Red Wings for one more year at $7.5 million. If Datsyuk leaves Detroit, the Wings will have to apply his cap hit toward their number because he was 35 when he signed his contract (three years, $22.5 million). The Bruins went through this in 2012-13 when Tim Thomas said goodbye for one year. The Bruins had to carry $5 million in dead money until they traded Thomas and his contract to the Islanders . . . Former Boston University forward Mike Sullivan is in the Jack Adams conversation after bringing the Penguins back to life. Ex-Terrier John Hynes will coach the Americans in the World Championships. Typical BU.
Not only is Patrick Kane the first US-born player to win the Art Ross Trophy as the league’s top scorer, he’s only the 10th American to reach 100 points in a season and the first to do so in 20 years. Among the group, he’s the second oldest (27) to reach the milestone for the first time.
Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeFluto. Material from interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.