Here's a handy way to amp up the emotions for tonight's Southeast Division showdown on national TV: Have Washington Capitals Coach Bruce Boudreau call Tampa Bay Lightning star Steven Stamkos(notes) a diver.
From Capitals Insider, after Boudreau was asked about the emotional buildup in the rivalry and admitted that, 'Hey we don't like these guys':
"We don't like the way they dive every two seconds and they lead the league in power play attempts because they've got guys like [Steve] Downie -- even though he might not be playing tonight -- who if I was a referee I would never make a call on him ever because he dives every two seconds," Boudreau continued. "[Steven] Stamkos, dives every two seconds. You start to get a hatred on for guys like that. So, it will be interesting."
Lightning Coach Guy Boucher declined to respond to Boudreau's comments. "I'm not going to try to get an edge off ice," Boucher said. "I'm not going to try to do that, I'm going to let the guys play and I believe that our players and their players, they fight with everything they've got. I have more respect for the players than just to say their players or our players dive or whatever."
The comments are out of character for Boudreau, as far as being made before a rivalry game ... then again, it's out of character for the Washington Capitals to have a divisional game that matters in March, too.
Is Stamkos a diver? Behind the Net's stats for penalties drawn per 60 minutes of even-strength play reveal Stamkos (1.7) and Downie (1.7) lead their team, for players who have played more than 40 games. That puts them among the leaders in the NHL ... right along with Alex Ovechkin(notes) of the Capitals, who averages 1.7 penalties drawn, too. Whoops.
Now, those numbers don't mean they're diving every time they draw a penalty, and it's entirely possible that no one has gotten around to capping Stamkos dives for YouTube like they have for other players.
But Boudreau's comment wasn't based on stats or video evidence. It was planting a seed for the officials, a classic case of ref-working. And it was also a handy way to get the emotions to rise in Tampa tonight for their divisional showdown, considering that the Capitals still aren't playing complete games despite their move up in the standings.
And after it's over, let's hope Boudreau and Stamkos can share a laugh about this gamesmanship over a large 10-gallon vat of Häagen-Dazs and whatever Stamkos is having.