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: Jun 7, 2010
Posted on: November 10, 2011 9:29 pm

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

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.

I like how you make generalizations through the entire article then single out the Flyers again.  The Flyers (Peter Laviolette) were making a statement.  Let's not forget Washington did this also and they are no slouch when it comes to scoring.  I think the point was made. 

Since: Mar 19, 2009
Posted on: November 10, 2011 9:17 pm

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

i have been following hockey for almost 40 years and I honestly can't remember seeing anything like that ever.  And I hope I never see it again.  You see players rag the puck into their own end all the time to set up or to waste time on a penalty kill.  No problem ...but to do absolutely nothing at even strength, in a 0-0 game is absurd.  Dump and chase, make somebody miss, adjust, circle with some speed and catch someone standing still, you got to try something . Arguements can be made for each side as who's to blame - TB didn't even try to forcheck but I don't think they should have to - THEY DIDN'T HAVE THE PUCK.  The way I see it is the team with the puck is on offence and it is up to them to press the issue.  Whoever the coach is has got to recognize the trap and change their approach.  What I saw last night reminded me of lame ass soccer and I really don't like lame ass soccer.  Start issuing delay of game penalties for the players that want to sit on the puck in their own end, or just blow the play dead and faceoff inside the zone.  Whatever it takes - fix it now.

Since: Oct 17, 2007
Posted on: November 10, 2011 8:47 pm


I've got a question for every idiot blaming the flyers for this. What if philly decided to play the trap too? Is that the type of hockey you want to see? The vast majority of the game would be sloppily played in the neutral zone. But by the logic of tampa supporters, this would be an acceptable scenario.

Since: Jan 17, 2009
Posted on: November 10, 2011 8:32 pm

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

They had the puck, just in their own end. Doesn't Tampa need the puck to score too? Then why didn't they try to get it?

Since: Jan 17, 2009
Posted on: November 10, 2011 8:29 pm

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

Isn't the objective to have control of the puck and score goals? Tampa Bay showed no effort to try to get the puck. There is no rule against not pursuing the puck just as there is no rule for sitting on the puck in your own end (as long as the puck is in constant movement). I don't see how you could say one strategy is good while the other is bad. They were both trying to win the game the best way they see fit. Boring hockey, but I don't blame either team for sticking to their guns.

Since: Jul 28, 2007
Posted on: November 10, 2011 8:11 pm

Go back to 2005-2006

That was the first year after the lockout and teams where flying, scoring and exciting. Laviolette's team in Carolina was exciting and the NHL was exciting. But because of an unnamed person (Bettman) everything started changing again in 2006-07 till where we are tody. Hockey is supposed to be high flying not boring.

Since: Nov 11, 2006
Posted on: November 10, 2011 8:10 pm

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

tampa can play any kind of defense they want, but philly can play any offense they want.  why is it the flyers obligation to move the puck?  i have played hockey my whole life.  you dont shoot the puck when a defenseman is in front of you.  you dont pass the puck when a defender is in front of the guy you are passing to.  why would you skate into a defense that you cant get through?  you wait for an opportunity and make it happen then.  if that system is so good, would you sit there all period when you are down a goal.  the answer is no.  attacking on the forecheck creates opportunities, so why not forecheck and keep the game exciting like every other team in the nhl does.

Since: Feb 29, 2008
Posted on: November 10, 2011 7:54 pm

duh, you need the puck to win

Philly is a talented team physically, but their coaching and players are the dumbest in the league; obviously.  You need the puck to score, boys.  Check them hard after you come in to forecheck and they will fold like laundry.  They can't break out if their asses on the ice.

Since: Feb 9, 2007
Posted on: November 10, 2011 7:24 pm

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

There needs to be a penalty for just ragging the puck like Philly was doing. That was a pathetic excuse of hockey and sportsmanship. Laviolette needs to grow a pair of balls. What a sad excuse of sportsmanship by Philly. I can't get over that. Defense should never be have to force the play. Defense is supposed to be reactionary.

Anyone calling for the 1-3-1 to be banned is absolutely an idiot and doesn't deserve to watch this great game. Philly is the only team in the wrong here and should be fined.

Since: Sep 7, 2011
Posted on: November 10, 2011 7:24 pm

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

just do like boston does , to beat it , carry the puck in and when you clear it in make sure you hit the guy getting the puck and hit him hard , that's only way to beat tampa since the refs don't callall the interference and the clutching and grabbing tampa does that makes their system work .... they have to try somthing becuse they relly only have two talented players on their roster (stamkos and st.louis ) and st.louis is now a old man like their goaltender

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