Photo credit:Steven Ellis/The Leafs Nation
‘Kyle will deal with that’: Maple Leafs will speak to NHL about Bunting’s reputation with officials
By Nick Barden10 months ago
It was yet another rough night between the Maple Leafs’ Michael Bunting and NHL officiating on Sunday evening.
The 27-year-old, in what was a close game against Detroit, was once again getting penalties that might make you tilt your head a little bit, especially if you watch Toronto regularly.
It all began in the second period when Bunting finished a hit on Jake Walman. Following the hit, Walman cross-checked Bunting in the back not once, but twice, resulting in the Maple Leaf player falling to the ice.
Instead of taking Walman for cross-checking, or even both players in this case, the referees chose Bunting, giving him an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
A very interesting call to say the least, especially when these cross-checks seemed to be considerable shots to the 27-year-old’s back.
However, that wasn’t everything that happened between the officials and Bunting on Sunday night.
With two seconds left in the second period, there’s a scrum that ensues behind the Maple Leafs’ net. Bunting, while skating backwards away from it all, is bringing Simon Edvinsson’s stick with him in between his skates.
Often times, things like this happen in a scrum and it doesn’t get called. Matter of fact, a lot of the time, players push and shove each other and no penalties are assessed.
But with Bunting, he gets assessed a 10-minute misconduct, taking him out for half of the third period in what was, at the time, a close game between Detroit and Toronto.
“Surprised? I mean, based on the way he’s been officiated of late, no I’m not surprised,” Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe told reporters on Sunday when asked if he’s surprised about Bunting’s 10-minute misconduct.
“But you know, [Bunting] has got to do his best to stay on the line and in terms of how he’s been officiated, Kyle [Dubas] will deal with that with the league.”
The 27-year-old looked to be making a conscious effort to stay out of the box as of late. And if many people who watch the team know he’s got a target on his back, I’m sure Bunting and the Maple Leafs know that too.
“He gets three cross-checks and he gets taken to the box with it. I don’t know if he had four or five punches in the face in the scrum and he ends up with a 10-minute misconduct. It’s tough for him,” Keefe added. “And like I said, Kyle [Dubas] will deal with the other stuff and see what we can get done there.”
The most fascinating part in all of this is that the players might not be the only ones trying see the 27-year-old go to the box on a night-to-night basis. Apparently, it’s the officials too.
“Bunting, I understand, was told earlier in the year, ‘Don’t talk to the officials'” Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman said after the Toronto-Detroit game on Sunday. “I think they’ve felt that some of the officials were trying to bait Bunting, and they said, ‘Whatever the case is, you can’t do it.’ He has to be whistle to whistle, a choir boy after that, or else he’s going to keep getting these calls.”
Whatever the case may be, it’s apparent that the Maple Leafs need to figure out this situation between Bunting and the officials before game one against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Toronto won’t be happy — and certainly so — if the 27-year-old gets a penalty like he did on Sunday, but in the playoffs.
Bunting is an important player for this Maple Leafs team and he’s valued for the way he contributes on the scoresheet, while also getting under his opponent’s skin. He’s much more valuable on the ice than in the penalty box.
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