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: Feb 17, 2010
Posted on: November 11, 2011 12:53 pm
This comment has been removed.

Post Deleted by Administrator

Since: Aug 23, 2006
Posted on: November 11, 2011 12:32 pm

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

Kudos to Philly for the way they played this.  Why should the onus be on the team in possesion of the puck to skate towards an opposing player.  The primary objective in hockey is to score more goals than the opposition.  Secondary to this is to keep the puck away from the opposition.  In my mind the Flyers did nothing wrong.  If Tampa doesn't have the puck, they need to go after it.  Why on earth should the Flyers be expected to give them an opportunity?  The Lightning should be willing to get it back at all costs.  Sure their trap is one way.  But when Philly adapted, and broke no rules in doing so by the way, the Lightning are the ones who needed to change up their system in order to get the puck back.  A team with as much scoring talent up front as Tampa owe their paying fans a big apology for that gong show.

Since: Jul 9, 2009
Posted on: November 11, 2011 12:29 pm

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

Why is the onus on Philly to advance the puck?  Because as Adam Gretz says in his story on trap-master Jacques Lemaire: 
" ... And I'll once again point out that Philadelphia entered Wednesday's game as the highest scoring team in the NHL,

So, OttawaYankee (circa 3:00 a.m.), you really think different rules should apply to the Flyers than to everyone else?  And if the Flyers were not among the top scorers, what would be your excuse then for whining about their actions?
Try that stunt in your own barn. I dare you. But Bettman won't let you. New rulings will come down Tuesday. Just watch Gary. .considering Philly is the HIGHEST scoring team in the league
Oooh, I don't think Bettman's going to follow you in discriminating against the Flyers, OttawaYankee.  Neither you nor I know what, if any, changes, Bettman will attempt--and I really don't care--but don't assume they'll be quite as one-sided as you seem to wish.  And if you don't like the Flyers' tactic, tell your team to force them out of it, and stop whining.

Since: Feb 19, 2011
Posted on: November 11, 2011 12:27 pm

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

i hate the flyers, but good for them. there's no place for this crap style of play. just like there wasn't when the devils were doing all there trap nonsense back in the 90s. next time they pull this garbage, someone should take a run at stamkos or st. louis's head.

Since: Jun 7, 2007
Posted on: November 11, 2011 10:39 am

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

Hello Hockey Fans,

Die hard Bruins fan here...If I was an NHL coach I would watch the Bruins/ Tampa playoff series from last year...yes it went 7 games but the Bruins won and they beat their system. If it was me I would have my two wings curl in the neautral zone and have the "D" slam the puck around the boards and pray to God that my wing beats their "D" to the puck. This system will bite Tampa in the butt again there is no doubting that.

Since: Oct 9, 2011
Posted on: November 11, 2011 10:31 am

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

This is on Philly not Tampa. Lightening are beat up on D and they use this system at other times anyway. I say shame on the Flyers for either not thinking they're fast enough or the coach isn't bright enough to design ways to beat it. It's not like we're talking about something new here. The trap's been around in one form or another for 20 odd years.
 The Flyers are supposed to be a goal scoring go be aggressive. Not frickin soccer with the defensemen passing back and forth!!

Since: Aug 16, 2006
Posted on: November 11, 2011 10:24 am

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

Best thing I've read the past two days, and one that I said yesterday.  The system can be beat.......if you actually try to beat it and/or are smart enought to figure it out.....

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.

Since: Jun 18, 2008
Posted on: November 11, 2011 10:06 am

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

Good for you Tampa!  The point as a franchise is to win.  If this leads to a banner then it is worth it.  If you think that a trap defense can't lead to exciting play you are, sorry to say, a moron.  This kind of play leads to turnovers and quick offensive responses from the team that took the puck.  People to complain about the press in college basketball, especially when it leads to quick offense for a team that forces a turnover.  Typical crap from philly.  They don't like something so they throw a tantrum and make the whole league stop and watch.  I would be ashamed to be a philly fan!  What an embarassment!

Since: Aug 27, 2006
Posted on: November 11, 2011 9:57 am

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

Philly is Old & slow???? Hey you wanna bash the stlye of play for that game fine, BOTH teams were at fault but before you start spewing out non-informed rantings please check your facts before you post. Hmm let's see on the OLD part, in that game the Flyers had the following players in thier lineup, Sean Couturier 18, Claude Giroux 23, Scott Hartnell 29, Matt Read 25, Zac Rinaldo 21, Wayne Simmonds 23, Max Talbot 27, Jakob Voracek 22, Harry Zolnierczyk 24, James Van Riemsdyk 22, Matt Carle 27, Braydon Coburn 26, Andrei Meszaros 26 & Sergie Bobrovsky 23....... Yes they have a few older players like Pronger, Jagr, Timonen & Briere but to call them old is ludicrous & to call the NHL's Highest scoring team Slow is also ridiculous & you obviously havn't seen them play but one game this year & that must have been the game against Tampa Bay. This team can skate with anyone. Oh yeah by the way the only reason that the 36 yr. old Andreas Lillja was in the lineup for Philly is because the 26 yr. old Erik Gustafsson (who was plus 6 the previuos game) sustained a minor wrist injury & was unavailable. Ok so if your counting that would be 15 players on a 19 man gameday roster UNDER 30 years of age....ANCIENT!!!!!!

Oh yeah did I already mention both teams were at fault, Flyers shoulda said F-It & jammed the puck down Tampa's throat, but come on Lightning fans Playing a 1-3-1 in a ZERO v. ZERO game is exciting??? I can understand if you were even up 1-0 but you play that at 0-0, even the Devils would attack you in the mid-90's until they at least had a 1 goal lead, but for Tampa Bay fans to say this is completly Phillys fault is the most hypocritical BS I've seen on these boards in a long time. It's 0-0 & you have one of your own defenseman's ass's in your goalies face while the puck is all the way down the other end of the ice & you wont send a forward past the friggin blueline to attack the puck????? Flyers wimps for not attacking it...YES, Tampa Bay huge vagina's for not attacking the puck AT ALL in a 0-0 game...YES!!!!

Thsi game should've been one of the best in the early season & it was not & BOTH teams have theier hands in on that....PERIOD!

Since: Jul 9, 2007
Posted on: November 11, 2011 9:44 am

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

More ironny, considering that both teams with the least support have more recent championships that the Flyers, Sabres, Bills and Eagles.  People can hate the system, but you cant deny its effectiveness. 

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