Flyers vs. Devils: A referee scouting report

Watson doesn't call roughing often. Stalberg must have really deserved it. - Matt Kartozian-US PRESSWIRE

The officials were the story on Sunday. Will they be tonight? Let's pre-scout them so we know what we're getting into.

The referees for tonight's Flyers vs. Devils game are Brad Watson and Jean Hebert. Given Travis' concerns about the officiating in the last game, I thought I'd give a brief scouting report on tonight's refs.

Watson is a veteran who has called 892 regular season games dating back to the 1995-96 season. He was very highly thought of at one time, calling five straight Stanley Cup Finals from 2003 to 2008, though he was left out of the next three before getting the nod in 2012.

Last year, Watson called substantially fewer penalties than the average ref -- the 6.7 penalties called per game he worked ranked 29th out of 33 regular referees. The penalties that were most suppressed (i.e. reduced in frequency) in his games were goalie interference, tripping, and roughing, although his low penalty rate really came via an across-the-board reduction rather than a strong hesitance to call a particular penalty.

Hebert is newer to the NHL. Last year, he called 14 games in his rookie year. One might fear his inexperience, but it might be a good thing to have a ref who (presumably) graded well enough at lower levels to get promoted to the NHL.

It's hard to read too much into a sample size of just 14 games -- at that sample size, Hebert's results could be influenced by which teams he happened to get assigned to and how they happened to play that night. Still, in that small sample, his games were a bit high in penalties (8.8 per game). His games featured a particularly large number of restraining fouls, most notably holding and tripping.

As always, we'll hope the refs aren't the story tonight. But now we know what complaints we're most likely to have.

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