Nov 10, 2011, 8:45 AM EDT
If there was a polar opposite to Saturday’s 9-2 Flyers win over the Columbus Blue Jackets, it was on the ice last night in at the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa. In an effort to dissolve Lightning head coach Guy Boucher’s 1-3-1 neutral zone landline, Peter Laviolette sent his units to the ice with a standing order to, well, stand still with the puck in their own zone until pursued by a Lightning forechecker.
Considering the Lightning took the ice with the standing order not to forecheck, the end result was essentially no one doing anything. For 30 seconds of the game’s first minute, Braydon Coburn stood over the puck, his stick on the ice but not touching the rubber.
The play was whistled dead, and the Flyers bench warned that they must make an effort to play the puck. So, they changed their strategy ever so slightly, but the end result was essentially the same. Chris Pronger circled around with the puck without leaving a tiny zone in beneath his own blue line. That too was whistled dead, despite the puck being in motion. The third variation involved the Flyers D pairing passing back and forth and slowly, and that continued for much of the time they had the puck when the teams were at even strength. For the most part, Tampa stayed in its 1-3-1 zone, trailing a defenseman so far behind the play he might as well have been a second goalie.
During and after the game, media and fans around the league (this spectacle having been broadcast for the national hockey audience on Versus), both teams’ tactics were debated. One thing not up for debate was the outcome, which saw the Flyers lose, 2-1 in overtime.
Darren Dreger and others report that the refs were told not to interfere with the coaching of the game. While it was a frustrating (also, amusing) start to the game, the refs did twice reward the Lightning for the Flyers’ unwillingness to move the puck in the opening minutes, whistling the play dead and calling for a face-off in the Philadelphia zone despite there being nothing in the rule book saying this should happen if the puck possessing team doesn’t skate forward with the puck. It wasn’t pinned against the boards, under a body, or caught in equipment. It was there for the taking if anyone wanted to apply even a light forecheck.
But Tampa did not, and the Flyers hung back in whatever manner they were allowed, resulting in a 13-shot stalemate of a frame.
In the second period, the calling of six different penalties resulted in a different pace, as the Lightning were forced to kill off three consecutive calls in the first 10 minutes. With the 1-3-1 nullified, the Flyers were able to break through on the powerplay at 9:34.
Scott Hartnell was credited with the goal, deflecting in a Jakub Voracek point shot. Harts was skating with Danny Briere and Matt Read, and after Briere was tossed from the circle, Read took the draw. He pulled it back and tied up his man, and Hartnell came in from the wing and passed it back to Voraceck, who was manning the points with Kimmo Timonen. Voracek had a nice back-and-forth with Kimmo before blasting one on net, and Hartnell got just enough on it while screening Dwayne Roloson to put the Flyers ahead by one.
It would be until the middle of the third period before anyone else scored, when Tampa tied the game on a Marc-Andre Bergeron point shot on the powerplay.
While the world got the news that Joe Paterno had been fired in State College, the Flyers and Lightning skated to a regulation tie. In overtime, Brett Connolly nabbed the winner, and questions abounded as to which team should have done more to win this game.
Analysts in the intermissions, including Mike Milbury and the Flyers’ own Keith Jones, each bemoaned Boucher’s use of the 1-3-1 trap, a stifling system he’s deployed in Tampa in regular season and playoff “action.” But, much like Laviolette’s stall tactic, the 1-3-1 isn’t against the rules. The analysts were pointing out, however, that it’s not hockey either. This is bound to be a topic of discussion at the upcoming GMs meetings.
Until then, did Lavvy do the right thing?
While we like the statement he made to Boucher and indirectly the league, he also pulled the reins on the league’s top-scoring offense. With a win in his pocket, Boucher is likely not bothered by the fact that the Flyers spent most of the first period—their best on the season by the numbers—standing still or merely pacing 130 feet from the Lightning net.
All that matters in a chess match is which side captures the king, and Boucher’s was the last left standing in south Florida.
However, it was commendable that Lavvy took a stand to protest, whether it was his intention or not, that the league needs to open up the neutral zone as it once did when the New Jersey Devils did all but melt the ice between the blue lines.
The game was actually more entertaining than it sounds though. As Coburn, Pronger, et al held the puck for moments on end, the Flyers stood on up on the bench, screaming at the Lightning. We could hear what they said, but Pierre McGuire relayed that it wasn’t pretty. The game got pretty chippy, and the newly extended Braydon Coburn obliged former Flyer Steve Downie in a battle—and won.
But two of the league’s most talent-laden offenses essentially sat on their hands for the even strength periods of play. Not a good recipe for the growth of the game, though I can’t say I wasn’t entertained by the way this one played out. That is, until overtime of course.
For a national perspective, check out the Puck Daddy take.
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