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Is officiating a cause for concern for Tampa Bay in Game 6? Guy Boucher is aware it might

May 25, 2011, 3:16 PM EDT

Marc Joanette, Eric Furlatt Getty Images

Officiating is a big part of any game in the NHL playoffs. Last night we saw a missed deflection turn into an icing call that allowed the Vancouver Canucks to tie the game with under 20 seconds to play and force overtime where they’d go on to win the game and series over San Jose. Tampa Bay has seen Steve Downie get the rough treatment from referee Tim Peel in Game 4 that saw him receive a ten minute misconduct as well as a diving penalty late in the game when he was boarded by Nathan Horton.

With Game 6 upon us and the Lightning needing a win to stay alive, there’s a curious referee assignment in tonight’s game. Officials Kelly Sutherland and Eric Furlatt have drawn tonight’s assignment with Dan O’Rourke the backup in case of injury. What you may not know is that Furlatt has a bit of a history with the Lightning this season in that he’s called 24 penalties against Tampa Bay and just nine against their opponents.

Lightning coach Guy Boucher is more than aware of who will be out on the ice tonight as he was asked about it during today’s press conference.

Q. Guy, do you get concerned at all sometimes when you see the officials who are on the sheet? You get one particular tonight who’s been very lopsided the past few times.

COACH BOUCHER: 24-9 against, right? Yes, I’m aware of it. Very aware of it. Very, very aware of it. It has been a part of our discussions quite a few times in the last game, the last games we did have that particular ref. And it is lopsided.
But the only thing we can control is what we do on the ice and hope that things will be fair like it is with everybody else.

Q. Do you block that out of your mind, though? Do you have to ignore it, who it is, and just go about your business?

COACH BOUCHER: You want to ignore it, but you’re right, after repetition, it is a concern. But we’re planning on being strong mentally and forcing whoever is a ref to see that we’re very disciplined.

Having a coach come right out and say that he’s very aware of the past issues he’s had with an official is an incredible admission. It’ll be curious to see if the Lightning keep doing things their way or if they play a brand of hockey to get around what they think the official may or may not call. We’ve heard about teams in Major League Baseball scouting umpires to try and get an idea of how to pitch to their tendencies, but will we see that tonight in Tampa Bay? It’d be an out-of-the-box kind of thing to do, but given Boucher’s abilities to adjust on the fly it wouldn’t exactly be a shock if it happened.

While this provides a nice point of interest to keep an eye out in tonight’s game, the Lightning have special teams worries of their own to be more concerned about. While the Bruins power play continues to be poor, the Lightning haven’t been much better than them in this series. Tampa Bay is 2-17 on the power play in this series and those goals each came in the first two games of this series. Since then they’ve gone 0-9 on the power play as the Bruins have found ways to stifle them on the man advantage. What was a great bonus for them in previous rounds of the playoffs has turned into a problem.

If the officiating becomes the story tonight, don’t expect the fans to keep quiet about it and now that this airing of grievances has come out from Boucher, it’s going to grab headlines if it boils down that way. A little gamesmanship never hurt anyone after all.

  1. abrienza428 - May 25, 2011 at 3:41 PM

    Seems like Boucher is just using a little gamemanship in hopes of buying a call or two or getting away with one. I certainly don’t think it can hurt, so I’m all for it.

  2. emperor83 - May 25, 2011 at 4:05 PM

    Anyone who saw Buffalo vs. Philadelphia games 2 and 5 this year knows about horrible officiating. But then again, there’s times like Game 4 where GOOD officiating is complained about because that game’s losing team didn’t want a penalty.

  3. homelanddefense - May 25, 2011 at 4:16 PM

    yeah this is twice this blog has tried to make a claim about Downie getting screwed by the refs and I just dont see it. Does Joe Yerdon live in Tampa?

    If anything Boucher is making these claims so this ref hears it and is less likely to call a penalty on TB.

    Thru 5 games the Bruins have had 1 more PP then Tampa…its been pretty even.

  4. stakex - May 25, 2011 at 4:30 PM

    The NHL has no credability when it comes to the officiating. Its been horrible the last few years, and many game outcomes have been changed by the officials calls… and thats not how things should be. The best team should win becuase they are the best team, not because the calls were in their favor.

    For example, we all know (or should) how the calls are going to go in game six. They are going to be in Tampas favor, because the league wants a game seven. A game seven means both more excietment, and more advertisement revenue…. and where ever there is money to be made, someone is going to try and make it. So say the refs favor Tampa tonight, and they win because of it. Then they go ahead and get a couple good breaks in the evenly called game seven and end up winning…. Boston would have been screwed out of the series by the NHL’s desire to see the series go to game seven.

    Thats just not how things should work in a professional sport, but the NHL is doing every single thing it can to try and promote the sport… and longer, more dramatic series in the playoffs can do just that (so can overtime and shootouts in regulation games). A quick look at the stats show penelty calls almost always overwhelmingly favor the team trailing in both series and games. If you think thats just a coincidence…. your very nieve. Its because the NHL wants games to go to overtime, and they want series to go the distance. Obviouslly that doesn’t always happen because penelty calls don’t always mean goals, but the league is certainly trying.

  5. govtminion - May 25, 2011 at 4:40 PM

    Is there bias against Tampa? No idea. But I do know two things.

    1) Boucher got set up to make comments that could then be made into the inflammatory “Look what HE said!” mold. He didn’t say “I think this ref is biased”, he answered a question put forth by a reporter- he was honest about it, perhaps more than he should have been, but it’s not like he’s announcing this of his own accord.

    2) Even if there IS bias… ok, so you’re on the PK for a good part of the night. Have you seen Boston’s power play? Relax, you’ll be fine guys. Just keep trying to clear the puck towards Kaberle and you’ll be able to use that PK time almost as a rest period!

    • savoirlaire - May 25, 2011 at 4:50 PM

      And I know two things–

      1) Tim Thomas is head and shoulders above Rolofson or Smith
      2) Tampa’s PP sucks right now about as much as the Bruins (see above)

      I still think Tampa gets the W tonite, but B’s in 7!

  6. sharks408 - May 25, 2011 at 7:38 PM

    Wait til either team plays Vancouver. Talk about lopsided, NHL wants nucks to win

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