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: May 12, 2011
Posted on: November 11, 2011 3:39 am

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

My question to everyone is... What is exciting defensive play? Allowing the other team to take relentless shots from all angles? Or Blocking their pursiut to the net? I guess this all depends on which team youre rooting for. If you think the rules of hockey are boring, maybe you shouldn't watch it. If you want calls on illegal defensive formations, maybe you should watch basketball.  It's 5 on 5 hockey no matter where youre set up your players.  The leagues best ranked offense coming to a complete standstill vs the leagues 23rd worst defense isn't a statement... It is just pathetic. It actually makes the Lightning's formation look completely unpenetrable (which obviously it isn't)  To all the confused ones out there.. If anything is going to change in A GMs meeting it is going to be changes on the offense (the ones possessing the puck) not the defense. (the ones trying to stop the pucks foward movement)
I propose The Pronger Rule, In 5 on 5 play  if the offensive team doesn't break out within 15 seconds there will be a faceoff in the offensive team's zone. A douche will be provided also to the player which breaks the pronger rule... so when he returns to the bench he can also remove the sand from his vagina.

Since: Aug 25, 2010
Posted on: November 11, 2011 2:50 am

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

I say teams should just hang out in their own zone and do nothing until T-Bay comes at gets it.
Okay ... let's take this just one step further.

I have a goalie in net. Does he threaten you? He's just standing there protecting the net. Do I have to remove him too?! ... so you will move the puck and take a shot on net?

Do you see what this is coming to? There's five defensive players on the ice, Philly. Get used to it. 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.

Since when did Philly become a drama queen that needs their pucks polished before they go on the ice?

If the Flyers can't break the trap against Tampa Bay like the other 25 teams who can -- considering Philly is the HIGHEST scoring team in the league ... they should hang up their shin pads and go have some more whine with their cheese steak.

Shame on them.

Since: Aug 25, 2010
Posted on: November 11, 2011 2:42 am

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, and it refused to go after a team that has allowed more 5-on-5 goals than all but three teams in the NHL this season."

So many teams are scoring against Tampa. What? Philly can't?

Since: Mar 30, 2007
Posted on: November 11, 2011 2:30 am

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

if your team doesnt ahve the talent to keep up then losgin 6-0 is really not a lot of incentive is it?
Also you didnt hear anyone complaining when Boston rode this into the cup last year. All you hear was gritty play etc.

Getting rid of the blue line would just make a bunch of cherry pickers on one side of the ice. If you want more goals tell the fers to man up and call interference away from the puck. Call it when it happens begging of game, shorthanded, in the playofffs. Gasp even when you on the pk in the playofss.

Since: Jan 10, 2007
Posted on: November 11, 2011 1:58 am

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

You want to get rid of the trap, get rid of offsides. You want to keep offsides, then move the blue lines closer to the goals.
The trap works only because it makes the effective playing surface smaller.
The two-line pass and "freezing" the puck in the corner are both gone and good riddance.
It's now an automatic penalty to shoot the puck out of the rink from your defensive zone.
Hand passes in the defensive zone are allowed.
The goalie cant play the puck in the trapezoid.All of these changes created a better game. If you have to spread the trap out over the entire rink (or at least 10 more feet of ice), it would be easier to beat and the game would be easier to watch.

Since: Mar 26, 2011
Posted on: November 11, 2011 1:24 am

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

I can't believe I'm cheering Pronger for anything, but I am here. I say teams should just hang out in their own zone and do nothing until T-Bay comes at gets it. Yea, teams want to win, but fans are not going to tolerate lifeless play just for the sake of a win. Let's hope other teams do this. When fans start booing, then the league will probably act, although not this season.

Since: May 12, 2011
Posted on: November 11, 2011 12:52 am

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

All of this news actually covers up the Flyers boring style of Defensive play, seeing they only had 3 take aways in the entire game. When the Lightning had 10.  That means 10 out of 25 times the flyers tried to breakout they were stuffed... the other 15 times they got a shot on goal. The 27 times the lightning tried to break they were successful with puting pucks on goal all but 3 times.

The take away margin of this game was  pitiful. I think the flyers defense is the one that should be under the microscope... Looked more like highschool team out there.

Since: May 12, 2011
Posted on: November 11, 2011 12:46 am

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

How is it boring to watch a team come to a stand still against your defensive scheme?  When is defense fun to watch to begin with? In hockey youre on defense when you don't posess the puck. The entertainment in hockey comes when your team has the puck. When your team doesn't have the puck you cringe your teeth and hope either your defense can stop the rush or the shot gets blocked... allowing your team to once again go on the offense. The funniest thing about this is Tampa Bay has one of the leagues most prolific offenses and is one of the leagues fastest breaking teams. I was at attendence during this game, and along with the rest of the sold out crowd I had a blast. I had fun booing the flyers, and even more fun watchin the Rook take it to the house for the decider. Defense isn't fun, I hate when my team has to play it EVER! If your team wants to lay down on the ice and stack themselves up to form a 5 man wall or pyramid in front of your goalie to prevent a shot/goal... so be it. Once again this is defense...
Two stats jump out in this game. The Takeaway margin and the shots on goal. Allowing only 15 shots from the top scoring offense in the league with your top two D-men out of the line up is 100% admirable. Boucher obviously gets heat for his position on the league's consistantly most solid small market team, also seeing him as still being wet behind the ears. "HOW DARE HIM SHOW US UP AT OUR GAME! AND CHANGE THE STAGNET SCHEMES WE'VE BEEN USING FOR THE PAST 20 YEARS!"  "NEW SCHEMES ARE BAD FOR HOCKEY!"
All of this sounds like disgruntled flyers fans that have obvious reasons to hate the lightning. Other Big marketeer floppers might as well join the flyers bandwagon too. The Lightning have no business winning.

Since: Jun 25, 2009
Posted on: November 11, 2011 12:36 am

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

This isn't just a problem with Tampa, this is a  problem around the league with a lot of teams but unfortunately nothing is going to change unless the owners instruct the coaches to play a different system.  And since I don't believe for a second that'll ever happen, we'll sometimes have to put up with bad hockey, nothing we can do about it.  

The NHL has done EVERYTHING POSSIBLE to open things up a little bit but coaches are constantly finding a way to beat the NHL. There are less offsides now and potentially more space in the middle of the ice since they took the center ice line out of play... a 2 line pass has been pretty tough to make for quite a while now.  There is more space behind the net then there was before... goalies aren't allowed to play the puck in the corners anymore.... unless a player clearly interferes with a goalie, they stopped calling goals off if a team's player is in the crease while a goal is scored.... they call every stupid penalty imaginable these days...... they introduced overtime years ago with a 4 on 4 rule for God sakes and penalties in overtime to make it 4 on 3 not uncommon at all. 

What else is the NHL as a league supposed to do? Bettman can't fix this..... either the owners and coaches want the game to be more exciting or they don't.....  there is no way they can force a team to do anything defensively, that's impossible. 

Since: May 12, 2011
Posted on: November 11, 2011 12:35 am

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

Most current Flyers fans can't take pride in much more. Might as well take pride in a loss.

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