Blog Entry

It's a trap: Tampa Bay's system under attack

Posted on: November 10, 2011 1:28 pm
Edited on: November 10, 2011 2:59 pm

By: Adam Gretz

The highest scoring team in the NHL (the Philadelphia Flyers) played a Tampa Bay Lightning team on Wednesday night that featured the most prolific goal-scorer in the league over the past two seasons (Steven Stamkos) and a former MVP (Martin St. Louis). That should result in an exciting game with a lot of goals, scoring chances and back-and-forth play, right? Wrong.

The highlight (or lowlight) of the night, as well as the biggest talking point in the NHL on Thursday morning, is how the game, which Tampa Bay won in overtime, 2-1, had all the excitement of paint drying due to the Lightning's commitment to its 1-3-1 system, and the Flyers' unwillingness to attack it.

If you haven't already seen it, multiple times throughout the game, especially during the first period, the Flyers' defensemen, including Chris Pronger and Braydon Coburn, refused to skate the puck out of their own zone and waited for the Lightning's forecheckers to make the first move.

When that didn't happen, the result was a stalemate unlike any other

And this was a game that was played on national television. That can not be what the NHL wants, and most of the negative reaction has been directed at the Lightning and coach Guy Boucher for playing such a style of hockey.

Versus analyst Mike Milbury, for example, left the set during the second intermission of Wednesday's game in "protest" (though, his night was probably over at that point anyway), while the discussion of whether or not the NHL needs to implement some form of "shot clock" to prevent a team from not advancing the puck the way Philadelphia did has been kicked off.

Depending on your rooting interest you probably have a different idea as to who the winners and losers were in this game. If you're a Lightning fan you're probably happy (and rightfully so) because your team won the game. Flyers fans -- and the Flyers themselves -- seem to be taking great pride in the fact that they embarrassed the Lightning by essentially calling out their style of play and shining some light on how boring the neutral zone trap is (though, we didn't need the Flyers to prove that to us -- we knew that based on watching hockey between 1995 and 2005).

Take, for example, the words of Pronger, via Tim Panaccio of CSNPhilly:
“Would you pay money to see that? I wouldn’t either and that was a [VERSUS] TV game, too. Way to showcase the product. Look at the players they got over there.
“That’s not my job. Maybe Shanny [Brendan Shanahan] should take charge of that, too. I don’t know.
“That is the way they play there all the time, whether it’s us or anybody. If they get down, they go into a two-man forecheck. We were just waiting for them to come in. Force them out of their forecheck or whatever that was. They weren’t forchecking. Their stance, I guess.
“That was their game right there. We were making them look bad. That’s not hockey in my book, but whatever. The league is letting them do it.”
Of course the league is "letting them do it," because there's nothing in the rule book that says a team can't play a certain type of defensive system. And as far as the "making them look bad" is concerned, it should again be pointed out that Tampa Bay did, in fact, win the hockey game, which is still the ultimate goal.

Tampa Bay doesn't pride itself on winning games in style, because if it did, it wouldn't be playing the 1-3-1 to begin with. So it's doubtful the Lightning are going to apologize for the boring manner in which they win games. And they aren't.

"We're sticking to the game plan," said Boucher, via the St. Pete Times. "When we have the puck we're aggressive with it, and when we don't have the puck we dedicate ourselves to being above the puck instead of chasing from behind. It tells me guys are buying in."

Sabres coach Lindy Ruff chimed in on Thursday and according to John Vogl condoned Tampa Bay's style of play, but did add that there has to be an obligation to try and get the puck if the other team has it.

There also has to be an obligation for the team with the puck to move it.

As a hockey fan, of course I would prefer to see a more offensive game that highlights the skill of the players on the ice, so I can't say that I love the way Tampa Bay plays. I certainly respect it, and I respect the way players have obviously bought into Boucher's system, but it is boring. But I also don't want to see anything that would limit their ability to play that style of hockey or restrict a players' on-ice movements, such as the type of "illegal defense" rules the NBA has attempted over the years, mainly because I'm not sure how you enforce it, and also because the referees have enough to worry about without trying to identify what system a team is playing.

I don't blame the Lightning for what took place Wednesday night, and focussing on Tampa Bay seems to overlook the fact that just about every team in the NHL plays some variation of the trap -- it's just that the Lightning's is different from all the others. Still, when the Flyers have the puck the onus is on them to advance it, play the game, and figure out a way to exit their own zone, navigate through the neutral zone and enter the offensive zone. They chose not to do that.

And let's not act like the Lightning and their system, no matter how committed they are to it, are impossible to score against. Last season they allowed 155 goals during 5-on-5 play (when they would have been playing their system). Only 12 teams in the NHL allowed more. So far this season they've allowed 33 goals during 5-on-5 play, which is the fourth most in the NHL (only Ottawa, Carolina and Philadelphia have allowed more).

You can score against them. The only way you're guaranteed to not score against them is if you make no effort.

Photo: Getty Images

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Since: Aug 22, 2007
Posted on: November 12, 2011 10:47 am

It's a trap: Tampa Bay's system under attack

Does it really work ?  They are 8-5-2....18 points in 15 tries isn't necessarily a great result.  Matter of fact if they keep that up it'll wind up putting them in the mid 90s and with the new point for an overtime loss that has been good enough for about 7th-9th seed.  If they want to play that way and bore the fans to death they have every right to as much as Philly had the right to sit back and wait for them.  In the end this game plan only works if you are tied or leading.  If a team gets a lead on them I would very much like to see Pronger and co. just sit back and pass it back and forth between his fellow defenseman and make them leave the trap.  In my opinion it's bad coaching and bad management on TB's part.  They have a much better offense that can score if given the chance and they should have done something to address the goalie situation if it's that much of a problem.  Playoff hockey is a different animal and you need good goaltending to make it far.  I've heard people say they got deep with it last year, but their goaltending was doing better then as well.  Things don't see to work out as well for you when your gameplan is a bad one when your trailing in a game.  Good coaching gets a team prepared for both aspects.  It's not like TB has a rich tradition of winning with this.  

Since: Aug 16, 2006
Posted on: November 12, 2011 7:01 am

It's a trap: Tampa Bay's system under attack

Its called good coaching... can they score with the best of them? Sure, do they want too? Not with these goalies they would wind up losing 6-5 instead of winning 2-1... if it works then it  works...I love how a system gets knocked because its no fun to watch... boo hoo!Cry

Since: Dec 16, 2007
Posted on: November 12, 2011 5:56 am

It's a trap: Tampa Bay's system under attack

If it's legal... and it provides away for a team to win.  Then it's good to go...  you don't have to like, just figure out away to beat it.  There is no crying in hockey!!!!   Hockey is boring because players now skate around taking B.C. two handers on thier opponents arms and the opponents can drop the gloves to protect themselves.  That is boring. 

Since: Aug 16, 2006
Posted on: November 11, 2011 9:05 pm

It's a trap: Tampa Bay's system under attack

By the way, what do you grift, if you don't mind my asking?

Lol, it was a name of an ald school comic from back in the day.  

And I agree, both teams are at fault for that happening and in another thread I have said as much.  

Still, as long as Tampa is winning, they don't have to apologize to their fans, nor to anyone else.  Whether they play the 1-3-1 at times, not at all, or all the time.  Winning is what any teams fans care about, regardless of any ethics, morallity, or legal issues that might arise.

I do have to say, Philly should apoligize to their fanbase for trying that sit back strategy since they still lost.
Philly is a really talented team that should/would have little problem breaking the 1-3-1, when employed.  Tampas goalie play is suspect behind a suspect defense anyways.

As a Tampa fan, I actually feel that if Philly attacked, they would of won.  They wasted precise time sitting back and holding the puck instead of applying pressure on Tampas weak back end. 

Since: Nov 26, 2006
Posted on: November 11, 2011 8:42 pm

It's a trap: Tampa Bay's system under attack

For the record neither team is at fault more than the other. Tampa is not obligated to pursue the puck carrier and Philly is not obligated to advance it. It is what it is.

Since: Nov 26, 2006
Posted on: November 11, 2011 8:35 pm

It's a trap: Tampa Bay's system under attack

Complaining about the 1-3-1 and it being conducive to "boring" hockey is like playing chess a couple times and complaining that it's "boring" and throwing a fit about it. What's worse? The Bolts strategy of playing the 1-3-1 or the Flyers "waaah, i dont wanna play against this, it isnt fair, we cant attack, waaaaah" temper tantrumesque strategy of just sitting in their own zone and passing the puck around?

Almost every single team in the NHL plays the 1-3-1 and deploys the trap at some stage in a game, enough that it consumes enough time that it is significant. Casual hockey fans don't know this. Just like casual chess players can become bored and whiney, so can casual hockey players and fans. Instead of whining, educate, and formulate a counter-attack or a strategy to defeat what ills you. Don't complain and whine about it. It's not productive. You play to win the game. It's not like they play like this all game every game. There are times to be defensive and times to attack, they choose to attack mainly on the counter.

Casual hockey fans need to get over it. This isn't something that happens every game, not even close. If this really does turn you off of hockey, see ya later!

Since: May 28, 2007
Posted on: November 11, 2011 6:55 pm

It's a trap: Tampa Bay's system under attack

tampa didnt trap much against blackhawks and game was exciting,plus they won in o.t.,hated when jersey's what week teams do to stay close.tampa doesnt need that style.

Since: Jul 9, 2009
Posted on: November 11, 2011 6:06 pm

It's a trap: Tampa Bay's system under attack

Clarification on my 5:47 post: "The Lightning got only one goal"--i.e., only one goal in regulation time.  (If you've only got four skaters in overtime, it's sort of hard to play a 1-3-1, right?)

Since: Jul 9, 2009
Posted on: November 11, 2011 5:47 pm

It's a trap: Tampa Bay's system under attack

Tampa won so evidently they aren't the ones that needed to change strategies. 
Actually, that's probably a non sequitur, grifter.  The Lightning got only one goal, and they sure didn't get that by sitting back and doing nothing.  And in fact they had no choice but to back off from their strategy for a while, because they were trailing at the time.  If they'd stuck to it they would have lost, since the Flyers could have sat back and held the puck--and their 1-0 lead--pretty much indefinitely.
Also, with TB winning, there is no need to apologize to anyone.
Again, a non sequitur, for similar reasons.  And I'm not necessarily saying that TB gets all the blame.  But they deserve as much as the Flyers do.

By the way, what do you grift, if you don't mind my asking?

Since: Sep 28, 2010
Posted on: November 11, 2011 5:38 pm

It's a trap: Tampa Bay's system under attack

I love neutral zone open-ice hits. Neutral zone scrambling really showcases talented players like St. Louis, Stamkos, Brierre and Jagr. Playing Hockey throughout my youth I can assure you that no one likes to be on the defensive, Hockey players live for scoring and setting up goals; defense is simply something required to keep the opponent from outscoring you. 

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