Blog Entry

Weekend Preview: Flyers, Lightning meet again

Posted on: December 9, 2011 1:11 pm
Edited on: December 9, 2011 1:52 pm

By Brian Stubits

This could be interesting. For people who like boring hockey, this Saturday's game in Philadelphia could be just for you.

Now that we've really sold the game, let me clarify. This weekend the Tampa Bay Lightning and Philadelphia Flyers will meet for the second time this season. And for some reason, the first game was a bit memorable -- or forgettable, depending on your viewpoint.

Who can forget when the Flyers refused to play into the Lightning's 1-3-1 trap and the Lightning refused to forecheck? What resulted was the biggest stalemate heard 'round the hockey world. Since then there have been discussions about the validity of Tampa Bay's defensive system. Should it even be allowed?

Here's a refresher on what that looked like.

Of course that's all silly talk. It obviously isn't hurting teams from scoring against the Lightning. The Bolts enter the weekend have surrendered the third-most goals in the Eastern Conference.

I highly doubt we'll see a replay of that ugly display in Tampa Bay from earlier this season, especially if Peter Laviolette wises up and remembers he has arguably the most explosive offense in the game. It's not the time to over-coach when you have Claude Giroux on your team.

There were a lot of questions about the Flyers entering this season. Would Ilya Bryzgalov be the missing piece? Can Jaromir Jagr still perform at a high level? (The answers are still undetermined and unequivocally yes).

But the one that everybody wondered about the most was who, exactly, was going to replace the scoring load that was carried by Jeff Carter and Mike Richards? Some assumed it would be James van Riemsdyk, others thought Danny Briere. I think the most popular answer, though, would have been Claude Giroux.

Well those folks were right, but I'm not sure they knew how right they would be.

Not only is Giroux leading the Flyers in points (by 14, no less), he leads the entire NHL in that category, passing early leader Phil Kessel.

It's a bit insulting to call this a breakout season for Giroux, after all, he did have 76 points last season, but it is just that. His 16 goals through just 27 games already brings him within 10 his career-best 25 one season ago. He's on pace for close to 100 points.

Oh, and he's only 23 (he turns 24 in January).

So here's a bit of a plea to Laviolette: let your offense go. Teams aren't having trouble scoring against the Lightning (the goalies share a good chunk of that blame, too). That's a particularly good idea with Giroux around.

Then again ...

"We might sit there for four or five minutes at a time," Laviolette was quoted as saying.

Be prepared for another night of non-action.

Oh my Michalek

Phil Kessel has received a lot of the early season headlines for his goal scoring. Jonathan Toews and Steven Stamkos haven't been getting the same amount of pub, but people know about their scoring prowess too.

Alex Ovechkin has received a lot of talk too, but for his lack of goal scoring.

So I'd like to take this opportunity to take this little light of mine, I'm going to let it shine, this time on the NHL's goal-scoring leader, Milan Michalek of the Ottawa Senators.

Maybe it's because he plays all the way up in Ottawa. Perhaps it's because the Senators had such low expectations this season. Whatever the reason, the player the Senators acquired in the Dany Heatley trade is blossoming into a major player and there's little attention being paid to him.

Michalek gets a bigger stage to make an impression on Saturday when the Sens will host the Vancouver Canucks on Hockey Night in Canada.

How Wild is this?

The Minnesota Wild are the best team in the NHL based on the standings. It's impossible to give them enough credit right now.

Especially when they head to Phoenix having won six games in a row and completing the California sweep for the first time in franchise history.

Before the season began, how many people really, truly believed that when these teams met on Dec. 9, they would both be in first place in their respective divisions? That's simply ... wild.

Is there any doubt who the front-runner is for the Jack Adams Award in the NHL right now? Sure, Kevin Dineen of the Panthers has to be in the conversation, but as of this moment it's clearly Mike Yeo on the Minnesota bench.

Not even injuries have been slowing his team down. Lose two goaltenders? No problem. Just call up Matt Hackett from the AHL to make his NHL debut and watch him go more than five periods before allowing a goal. Have a defense few people outside of Minnesota can't recognize? No worries. The Wild are still incredibly stingy when it comes to giving up goals.

Pretty soon, people won't be able to ignore the Wild, no matter how much they might try.

Return of the matinee (and Kaberle)

Now that the college football season is done -- seems as convenient a reason as any -- Saturday matinees are returning to the NHL schedule. Last week it was the Canadiens visiting the Kings. This week it's again the Canadiens, this time visiting the Devils.

The game will also be the debut of Tomas Kaberle with the Canadiens. After being traded to Montreal on Friday for Jaroslav Spacek, this will be Kaberle's first opportunity to change the minds of fans of his new team: that he doesn't stink.

That's going to be a hard task, considering the view of Kaberle league-wide is so low. You know it's bad when a GM who signed you a few months ago essentially admits to it being a mistake.

It's also big for Jacques Martin, the Habs coach. The talk surrounding his job security had died down after the Habs had appeared to right the ship, but it's starting to leak again. And with that, people are wondering about Martin's status once anew. Beating the Devils, a team they are battling with at the bottom of the playoff picture right now, would be a helpful start.

We're going streaking!

These are your streaks at play going into the weekend.

Flyers: The Flyers enter Saturday's game with the Bolts having won four straight.

Florida Panthers: People are still stunned by them, and they take a three-game run into Buffalo and then, if it survives, Madison Square Garden on Sunday.

Winnipeg Jets: Yes, another Southeast Division team. The Jets are starting to make a push to stay relevant all season and have won three in a row. Their weekend consists of a game vs. the Hurricanes and at the Red Wings.

Wild: No team is playing better than Minnesota in the NHL. None. As mentioned, they head to Phoenix with a six-game win streak in hand.

Vancouver Canucks: Don't look now, but the defending Western Conference champs are starting to roll. Their streak is three games going into Ottawa.

Los Angeles Kings: They are the only team who come into the weekend with a losing streak in the works. They'll have a chance to snap that against the Stars on Saturday.

Photo: Getty Images

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Since: Feb 8, 2007
Posted on: December 10, 2011 11:31 pm

Weekend Preview: Flyers, Lightning meet again

Well, Tampa started attacking from the start and we had ourselves an entertaining game! Vis, I kinda like the idea of waiving off icing if the team refuses to forecheck. Its a very minor tweak to the game without a big overhaul. Plus if teams still want employ the 1-3-1, they'd be able to. It's still dump and chase hockey, which I despise, but allowing that quick, deep pass from their side of the red line with the attacking forwards already on the move might give the offense a decent shot at retrieving the puck. I'd be curious if that worked. A little change like that without ripping into the rule book would be ideal.

Since: Nov 3, 2006
Posted on: December 10, 2011 1:54 pm

Weekend Preview: Flyers, Lightning meet again

I honestly have no problem with the trap, but only if it's used very sparingly as a turnover tactic.  When you make it a big part of your defensive strategy, you're no longer playing the game.  If what Vision said comes about, even more so. 

My problem is when people have a problem when a team recognizes the trap, and refuses to be trapped.  If you somehow spot an ambush before it takes place, you avoid the ambush.  Same principle applies, recognize the trap and avoid the trap and force the team out of it.

Since: Dec 10, 2011
Posted on: December 10, 2011 12:09 pm
This comment has been removed.

Post Deleted by Administrator

Since: Sep 21, 2006
Posted on: December 10, 2011 9:08 am

Weekend Preview: Flyers, Lightning meet again

Sabreone-Actually there is no such rule. The Flyers in that case can take as much time to decide where to play or pass the puck, as long as they keep the puck moving and do not freeze the puck. It is up to the fore checker to force the action. No where, in any rule book does it say the defense can make no effort and slag back and wait for the opposing team to make a pass into heavy traffic. Tampa is not the inventor of this system but they play it none the less and it zaps the game flow. That is a delay of game to make no effort to gain the puck and score. I think you will see changes to the rules to prevent this sort of game style where it is obvious The defending team has a defender playing center field back by his own net and no players forward to make action to gain possession of the puck. It is the opposite of cherry picking. I heard the hosts of NHL On The Fly say that one minor change that is being looked at to stop Teams like Tampa from sitting back is to waive the icing rule/ and Blue to Blue offsides rule if a defender is inside his own Blue line. That would allow offenses to take off when a team slags back and makes no effort to play hockey. If they did that then you'd have the puck allowed to be sent all the down to the offensive zone. The only reasons any team would play a 1-3-1 trap is because of the Icing rules and passing rules. A trapping team knows they are in no danger of getting beat deep because that pass is currently illegal. Once they make that adjustment and allow the puck to be passed all the way down it would be a disadvantage to play a 1-3-1 because an offense could send all forwards into the zone to accept the pass. That rule change would make the game play a lot faster and stop the ridiculous delay defensive tactics we see some teams employ.

Vis 20/40

Since: Jan 1, 2009
Posted on: December 10, 2011 8:58 am

Weekend Preview: Flyers, Lightning meet again

And when the other team retaliates?

Since: Oct 15, 2007
Posted on: December 10, 2011 5:56 am

Weekend Preview: Flyers, Lightning meet again

If I recall correctly, the rules state that the puck has to be moved forward -- Tampa's defense has absolutely no bearing no the matter, but the Flyer's refusal to move the puck forward is a delay of game. It's all the Flyers to either move the puck forward or not.

Since: Nov 21, 2006
Posted on: December 9, 2011 11:03 pm

Weekend Preview: Flyers, Lightning meet again

Have to be an idiot to think Flyers will do that again this game.  This game is @Philly.  They don't care about pissing off TB home fans, but won't want to anger the home fans.

Since: Nov 5, 2007
Posted on: December 9, 2011 6:24 pm

Weekend Preview: Flyers, Lightning meet again

I think when Tampa Bay does this crappy zone defense, the Flyer with the puck who is not being challenged should just rip a 105mph slap shot at the Lightning forward standing on the blue line. Then everytime the Lightning play this crappy style of defense the guy standing there not forechecking will think twice.

Since: Jun 7, 2010
Posted on: December 9, 2011 5:20 pm

Weekend Preview: Flyers, Lightning meet again

Good call on that comment.  I think the message was sent in the last game.  I think the plan will be to keep moving so the trap can' tbe implemented.  Look for the same line up by the Flyers that went against the Pens.  Harry Z and the younger guys are built for speed.  The odd man rush and skating will keep the trap from having time to form. 

Since: Sep 8, 2006
Posted on: December 9, 2011 4:17 pm

Weekend Preview: Flyers, Lightning meet again

If I were the Flyers/Lightning, I'd spend about 15 minutes of the game just cycling like before and basically telling the commentators that think they can dictate how the game is played to eff off. There's absolutely nothing wrong with trying a new strategy and I'm sure the Devils laugh and hold up their Stanley Cup rings every time they are criticized for the trap.

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