After two days of the Capitals accusing the Bruins of targeting the head of Nicklas Backstrom and the Bruins offering angry denials, Capitals coach Dale Hunter said he expects tonights Game 4 at the Verizon Center will be a tightly officiated contest.
I dont know if the same thing is going to happen tonight, but I watched the three games last night and they were all called tighter, Hunter said following todays morning skate.
Hunter and a handful of his players referenced Wednesday nights Game 4 between the Flyers and Penguins in Philadelphia, where the two teams combined for 26 penalties in Pittsburghs 10-3 win.
The Penguins scored on four of their nine power plays as the referees tried to control what had become a very chippy series.
I think its a good message, Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner said. It should stop things right away. If you get out of line youre going to get in trouble for it and your team is going to hurt.
Tonight at the Verizon Center, referees Marc Joannette and Brian Pochmara have been assigned the task of calming a series that has escalated in intensity and extra-curricular activity after the whistles. The emotions of Game 3 spilled over at the conclusion of the game when Backstrom cross-checked Rich Peverley in the face and was slapped with a match penalty and one-game suspension.
The call on Backstrom angered teammates who said the center was only protecting himself and had had enough of the Bruins intimidation tactics. But it also left them confused over what is and isnt a penalty in the post-season.
Players are a little uncertain out there over whats a penalized play and whats an OK play, said Caps right wing Troy Brouwer, who will play on a checking line tonight with Jay Beagle and Matt Hendricks. The refs are trying to make sure there are no more mishaps going on.
Brouwer said the key for the Capitals tonight is playing hard between the whistles and showing discipline after them.
Weve got to stay away from the garbage after the whistles, he said. It does nothing but create 4-on-4 hockey and they have a lot of quick forwards who can make plays. We complain about not getting calls sometimes, but a lot of times its because were not getting good offensive shifts and wearing the other teams defensemen and forwards down. Thats when they take penalties.
Hunter said hes not always sure what hell get from one referee to the next.
I know a few of them, I dont know them all, he said. Some referees call more than others. I dont have a book on them. But theyre calling more penalties and weve got to be disciplined and just play hockey.
As for Brouwer, hell brush up on the name of tonights officials because you never know when that might work in your favor.
When you need to talk to the refs its a little more polite to call them by name, Brouwer said, instead of just calling them, Ref.