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: Sep 6, 2006
Posted on: November 11, 2011 9:21 am

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

Amen MGD716!  It was a disgusting effort.  I don't blame the Flyers.  Yes, I am biased, they are my team.  But I thought that after the strike year the league was trying to force teams to open up the game to allow more end to end action, more highlight plays to make it more exciting to sell the game to the fans.  They are stuck on a made up network because they were too boring for ESPN, ESPN 2, ESPN 3, ESPN OCHO, etc.  And TB is making certain that NHL is stuck as a regional sport on small tv.

Since: Sep 16, 2006
Posted on: November 11, 2011 8:44 am

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

Lot's of good ideas in previous posts.  One thing is for sure is that the NHL needs to do something. I really haven't bought any NHL tickets since the strike, haven't recovered yet,  and play like that isn't going to put me in the stands anytime soon.  

I miss the mid-80's when you had a dozen or so players with 100pts and 50 goals.  Now when one guy hits 50 or 100 it's big deal.  Pretty boring if you ask me.   

Since: Dec 11, 2006
Posted on: November 11, 2011 8:42 am

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

Plus, I almost forgot Tampa had a hockey team.  Fan support must be as good as the Bucs.  Let's see, in about 5 year the Bucs will be in LA and the Lightening will be in Quebec?  Sound about right?

Since: Dec 11, 2006
Posted on: November 11, 2011 8:36 am

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

I totally condone what the Flyers did.  It's awesome.  And this coming from a Sabres fan.  But the trap sucks, and needs to be taken out of the game.  The Devils essentailly started the trend in the mid-90s and ruined hockey until the lockout.  Fan support and ratings were at their worst.  We come out of the lockout with new rules, and teams like Buffalo became the anti-trap.  What hockey used to be, and should be to the core.  About speed, skill, and talent.  But after about 2 years teams started getting back to the "clutch grab" style again...and it's getting worse.  Boucher has no excuse to play the trap.  I know Tampa's D and goaltending is average at best, but they have some very talented forwards that can score. Stop stifling the game.  It's not about the wins.  It's about the game.  Plau, Tampa doesn't have the team to play that system if everyone else plays it.  They're just too weak at D and G to compete with a defensive team that plays the same system.  I never could stand Boucher, and my disgust for him grows for him every time I see or hear about him.  Play HOCKEY Tampa....or face the revolt.

ps.  The Sabres NEVER played the trap....even when every other team was.  They had the best goalie in the history of the game, Dom Hasek.  However I don't miss the 1-0 or 2-1 6 overtime games against the Devils.  That tests the loyalty of even the stoutest fan.

Since: Jul 9, 2007
Posted on: November 11, 2011 8:34 am

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

In retrospect, the Flyers may want to adjust their defensive scheme.....  Ironny considering that they are suggested to have one of the best bluelines and goaltenders in the league.

Since: Jul 9, 2007
Posted on: November 11, 2011 8:31 am

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


After thinking about it, I dont think there would be an issue at all......the clock would only be running until the offending team gained the neutral zone.  No need to dump the puck, just need to move it outside of your own blueline.  Its not like the 1-3-1 has the defending team sitting in their own zone waiting for the opposing team to enter the offensive zone.....they are predominantly waiting in the neutral zone.

Since: Nov 15, 2008
Posted on: November 11, 2011 8:28 am

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

Way to show em Philly.  I hope they miss the playoffs by one point.   The Devils won a few cups playing that horrible trap, and things have opened up since then. If Tampa wants to try and play that way, it doesnt make sense to throw away a game proving how boring the system is.  Leave it to the Flyers.  Lets hope every time Philly doesnt like the style the other team is playing they decide to not pursue the puck. 

Since: Jul 9, 2007
Posted on: November 11, 2011 8:25 am

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


I agree, to compensate for the dumpage of the puck they would have to do away with the goalie trapezoid, allowing the tenders to play the puck more.  Never understood that rule anyway.

Since: Apr 17, 2008
Posted on: November 11, 2011 8:12 am

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

I'm afraid that if you do implement a shot clock then we will see the puck dumped and then that team sets up a trap.  It will be back and forth like that. 

Since: Sep 17, 2008
Posted on: November 11, 2011 7:59 am

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

Flyers are such a joke organization.  always have been.  good to see pronger fitting in so well there.  i guess in this decade when the rest of the league was moving to more open ice style and clarke kept building teams comprised of a-holes that fought every night, the other teams should have refused to play them to make a point.  


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