ST. LOUIS – The reason why the Boston Bruins hold the edge over the St. Louis Blues is so obvious and so critical, Craig Berube couldn’t stop himself from publicly pleading for a little help Sunday.
“I don’t agree with all the calls,” said the Blues coach. “We were the least penalized team in the league in the first three rounds. Now, all of a sudden, we’ve taken  penalties in one series.
“We were the least penalized team in the playoffs coming into this round. Now all these penalties.”
A pitch for the officials to tuck their whistles in Game 4, perhaps? Or the first sign of a crack in a tight group that has been the NHL’s best since New Year’s Day and its most dependable after a loss?
Berube was rightly and widely praised for how he handled Timo Meier’s undetected hand pass that helped set up an overtime winner and gave the San Jose Sharks a 2-1 lead in the Western Conference final. The Blues got screwed so bad by that one, commissioner Gary Bettman wondered if his head might explode.
Yet Berube refused to whine. He commanded his players to leave it in the past, and the Blues responded with a three-game winning streak and their first trip to the final in 49 years.
After Game 1, Berube didn’t complain about a borderline Torey Krug hit that has kept Robert Thomas out of the series since.
After Game 2, he didn’t protest valued penalty-killer Oskar Sundqvist one-game suspension.
But after Game 3’s 7-2 dismantling on home ice, which featured Jordan Binnington’s first pull of the playoffs, Berube finally played the blame-the-refs card.
“We don’t feel it was a 7-2 game. I mean, it was, but listen, our team is confident,” Berube said.
“That game last night, it’s a hard one to evaluate. The penalties, they get four power-play goals out of it. Just 5-on-5, I didn’t think we were bad in the game. But, you know, the game gets out of reach.”
Through three rounds, the Blues had taken just 2.9 penalties per game; they’re averaging 5.7 in the Cup Final, feeding the Bruins’ beastly power play, which is humming at an eye-popping 35.9 per cent (the NHL average is 19.1 per cent).
It represents the difference between seizing the series or letting it slip. Full stop.
At 5-on-5, the series’ score is 5-5, with the Blues owning 52.8 per cent of the shot attempts and leading the high-danger scoring chances 21-19.
Berube said he hasn’t brought up the officiating with the league, and he disputes your “Blues lack discipline” narrative.
“I don’t buy into all of that, to be honest with you. I think that we could definitely be more composed after the whistle. I think we’ve let some frustration get in there where we maybe do too much after the whistle. So, we’ll clean that up, for sure,” Berube said.
“But like I said, we were the least penalized team in the league coming into this series.
“I mean, they make calls and don’t really give us explanations why.”