When the Flyers win, all harm is forgotten. Most of the time anyway.
In a sloppy, shootout of a Game 2 in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, which the Flyers won by a score of 5-4, there was a stat that jumped off the sheet. And it wasn’t any of the 9 goals.
Instead, penalties, 24 of them all told, were the dominant figure.
Flyers coach Peter Laviolette, who spent much of the night leaning over his bench, disgusted with the calls on many of his team’s 10 minors, was quite obviously less than impressed with the role the officials assumed in the hockey game.
“Now the games over and the game happened the way it happened so whether I am frustrated or not, it is irrelevant,” Laviolette said tellingly.
Game 1 of the series, Thursday night, was refreshing. Flyers fans, often caught up in their us against the league conspiracy theories, were treated to a 2 penalty night. Referee Kelly Sutherland showed that he gets way the playoffs work. There’s no need to make yourself bigger than the teams or the players.
On this big of a stage, everyone on the ice has an understanding of what’s at stake. There is obviously more intensity and more time to build a relationship with your opponent. So let the players play. Give them a chance to police themselves.
Dishing out 18 power plays in a game of this magnitude is way overstepping your duty as a referee. It’s a disgrace.
“When the 5 on 5 gets broken up, some guys end up sitting too much…. It was not the start we were looking for in the third period with taking six minutes of the first seven so the power play guy starting sitting for a bit,” said Laviolette. “Some guys were stuck playing too much but when looking at the minutes, it seemed to even out because it was a fairly close call with the penalties, so they all got a lot of work.”
13 penalties, 12 of them minors, were called on Buffalo. While the Flyers did not take advantage of the power play (1-10), the Sabres could have easily been sunk by borderline (if that) calls.
The amount of time special teams units spent on the ice took a lot away from the game plan of both clubs. And, as Brian Boucher, who replaced Sergei Bobrovsky late in the first period, said, it was tough to get in a rhythm, with the arm going up just about every two minutes.
“It’s pretty tough. It’s kind of unusual I think in playoffs,” Boucher said. “It’s not the norm. But like I said, it seems like they are calling it a lot tighter this year. We are going to have to adjust.”
He said it was unlike anything he’s seen before in a playoff game.
“Typically in the playoffs there aren’t that many penalties, usually two or three a side. They seemed to be calling it tight right now…. As a goaltender it’s not one of those games you look forward to playing in,” Boucher added.
“Two or three a side”? Try multiplying that by three or four and you’re closer to what we saw Saturday night.
Referees Dan O’Rourke and Brad Meier are responsible for taking the game out of the players hands — something that even the worst officials are seldom able to accomplish.
Whether or not the result of the game was effected by the whistle-happy crew is probably too tough to say. I’m sure Buffalo fans are upset.
But what we can take out of the first two games of this series is a pair of lessons — how to and how not to officiate a hockey game. Kudos to Kelly Sutherland for sitting back and letting the players control their own game.
But when ego meets referee, you get 24 penalties. And then no one is happy.