The mayhem at the end of Game 5 — sparked by Paul Gaustad‘s slashing Zdeno Chara and Chara’s responding with a barrage of punches to Gaustad and then Cody McCormick — didn’t generate a suspension for Chara, but it has sparked a war of words as both teams await Game 6 in Boston on Monday.
Both head coaches, Claude Julien and Lindy Ruff, traded barbs in response to the NHL’s repeal of the automatic ban on Chara for getting an instigator penalty in the final five minutes of the Bruins’ 4-1 loss Friday night.
“I said [Friday] night, you run the risk of being suspended,” Ruff said on Saturday. “The league’s interpretation is what it is. I was arguing for the instigator. That’s why I stayed on the bench. I had [Craig Rivet] go over and say, ‘That’s an instigator.’
“It really doesn’t matter what I think. It really doesn’t,” Ruff added. “I don’t think that little slash [from Gaustad] hurt [Chara], though. An instigator is an instigator. The referees deemed [Gaustad] was the instigator. I can find lots of little slashes in the game if you want me to find that.”
In his media briefing on Saturday, Julien said he hoped Ruff was simply using coaching tactics and didn’t need any cheese with his whine. He also reiterated his disgust with what he believes to be one-sided officiating leaning in the Sabres’ favor.
“I’ve heard and read Lindy’s comments,” Julien said. “Hopefully, it’s his way of taking pressure off his team. If not, it’s a lot of whining. Simple as that. Every coach has his tactics. You just worry about yourself. We seem to be the team that’s doing bad things. They seem to be the team that’s on the nice side of all that stuff and they do nothing wrong. It’s tactics. Those are things in the playoffs that coaches use, hopefully to their advantage. I don’t pay much attention to it.”
There is some speculation around the NHL that the league tends to resist suspending star players in the playoffs, and Ruff was asked if maybe that was the case here with Chara.
“I’ve heard that argument before and I’m not even going to go down that road,” Ruff said.
Rivet, the Sabres captain, also chimed in, saying he expected the Bruins captain to be in the lineup Monday.
“I’m not really surprised,” Rivet said. “It’s something I expect at this time of year. I think the action would have to be a lot worse to get a suspension. He was a little bit frustrated at the end of the game but I don’t think it was really cause for a suspension.”
One thing is for sure though: If Gaustad or any other Sabres player wants to take liberties with a Bruin again, they will get a similar reaction. Chara’s actions were questioned, because he could have put his team in a tough position if he was suspended. But with two seconds on the clock and the Sabres up 4-1, he and the Bruins weren’t about to let Gaustad and the Sabres rub salt in the wound.
“We stand up for ourselves, too, and it is about doing it at the right time,” Julien said. “Sometimes a guy takes a cheap shot at you at the time of the game, it gives you a power play and you say, ‘Well, OK, I know who it is and it is a long game.’ But the game [was] over [when Gaustad hit Chara]. Obviously, it was a cheap shot and it was unwarranted — the two-hander — and [Chara] responded.
“I don’t think there is any damage there this time,” Julien said. “We will turn the cheek when it is time to, and there’s times when you have to stand up for yourselves, and he stood up for himself.”