This is a bonus blog that will replace tomorrow's regular blog posting. I saw something last night in the Philadelphia Flyers vs. Tampa Bay lightning game that I thought was absolutely pathetic, and could have some major recourse that lead to ruin the game of hockey! So I needed to make a post about it. This may come across like a rant, and I really don't care.
Right off the opening face-off of last night’s tilt, the Flyers gained possession in their defensive end with the puck, but instead of going up the ice, and trying to weave their way through the Lightning's neutral zone trap; they decided they weren't going to move the puck. They were going to wait there for as long as possible until the Lightning broke up their 1-3-1 defence, to fore check for the puck. It went on for about 30 seconds, before the refs stopped play and called for another faceoff. Then again the Flyers regained possession of the puck, and refused to skate out of their defensive zone, unless the Lightning sent a fore checker in, the play was again whistled dead. I believe the Flyers even tried it a third time, with the d-men and other players skating around instead of just standing still. The Flyers finally got over themselves and advanced the puck and played a regular hockey game, but I know this crap left a sour taste in a lot of players’ mouths, and even the fans.
The Flyers were basically playing a game of chicken with the Lightning, and neither team would do anything, as the Lightning players were informed to play their 1-3-1 game and not change to adapt to the Flyers stupidity. I thought it was a bush league move and it's something you’d see in junior hockey or in a game when you’re up 10-0 and don't want to further embarrass your opponent, what makes matters worse, is that the Flyers bench then stood up and started yelling and screaming at the Lightning to fore check. The team that has the puck in their defencive zone should therefore be responsible for bringing the puck up the ice, and creating offence, not wait for the team defense to try to force a turnover or exploit a defencive scheme.
Bob Mackenzie of TSN summed it up best from the perspective of the Flyers "The Lightning are playing something called the neutral zone trap, it's only been around as long as the game itself," explained McKenzie. "Now all of a sudden Peter Laviolette orchestrates something that says if they aren't going to play aggressive we aren't going to play aggressive and we're in front of your home fans so let's see how you like that. Let's let this play out and see how it goes."The sad thing is, like Mackenzie said, the neutral zone trap has been around for as long as the game of hockey itself, and many teams have won the Stanley Cup by using the 1-3-1.
So, if I was officiating the game last night, here's how I would have handled the situation; see what the Flyers are doing, blow the whistle after maybe 25 seconds max, skate over to head coach Peter Laviolette and warn him the next time I see it the Flyers to that they’ll be penalized. The next time it happens call a penalty, for either delay of game or game misconduct, and then see if the Flyers learn how to play the game of hockey properly. The Tampa Bay Lightning have finally found a system that works for them in the 1-3-1, they’re winning hockey games and downright confusing opponents, giving the Lightning an advantage; the Flyers just stood there and said to the NHL "It's not fair, we can't get passed the 1-3-1, it's not fair, make them change" Clever timing by the Flyers as the General Managers meeting is coming up next week, and you know this will now be a topic of discussion at that meeting. The Flyers are being big babies about this, no other team is complaining, other teams seem to find a way to still beat the lightning despite their neutral zone trap as they are 8-5-2. So that means, five other guys out there have figured out a way to deal with it, Pete. It was a smart move by Lightning coach Guy Boucher, the Flyers were coming off a high scoring affair against the Winnipeg jets, in which they scored 8 goals, the Lightning were down 2 of their best players so instead of offering his team as a sacrifice to get their butts kicked he deployed the 1-3-1 tactic/strategy to hopefully slow down the high scoring Flyers. What teams, fans and media are forgetting is that the Lightning don't always sit back in their 1-3-1 defence, sometimes they send 2 fore checkers in, sometimes they send 1. Their tactics vary depending on the type of team they are playing from night to night. The best thing is that the Lightning barely used their 1-3-1 after the first period. "They have a set forecheck in the neutral zone, so we have a set breakout," Laviolette told reporters in Tampa after Thursday's game. "As soon as we get some pressure, we'll get into our routes. … They should come after us. Otherwise, we can just stand there." The first period antics by the Flyers delivered a lot a of criticism by hockey analysts toward the Lightining an their 1-3-1. The game was shown on the American network VS and Pierre McGuire and Mike Milbury were the two commentators, and the two of them went to town ripping the Lightning head coach, numerous times, it even went so far that Mike Milbury stormed off set during the second intermission. (good I've never liked Milbury maybe he can be suspended or fired from NBC) The two commentators spent the whole evening mocking the Lightning, and even went as far as to say that no other player would want to come play for the Lightning because of their lame 1-3-1 system, no player outside of Tampa would like the system and that even the super star Lightning players hate playing this system! Talk about some major opinions. But how's this for a coach that everyone was throwing under the bus; he limited the Flyers to just 15 shots, got 2 points in the standings, all while missing 2 of his top 4 D men, I'd say Boucher deserves a little bit of credit for this considering they still got the W. If anyone it's the Flyers that should be ashamed of their actions, considering they came into another team’s home arena and tried to mock their defencive play and still lost the game! The 1-3-1 system that the Lighting use can be beat, the Bruins showed us that when they knocked Tampa out of the playoffs, basically the Flyers were just sitting there "crying" that they couldn't think of a offensive strategy to beat the 1-3-1 trap, what the Flyers should have done was bring all 5 players back into their defensive zone and rushed up the ice all at once. I think Laviolette over thinks things with his strategies, he has one of the best offensive’s in the NHL, surely they could have found a better way to get by the 1-3-1, ultimately the coach just cost the Flyers 2 points. So, behind the veil of self-righteousness and "keeper of the game" sanctimony, what Laviolette really admitted Wednesday in Tampa was, "I can't devise a system to beat this system under the existing National Hockey League rules." So, either Laviolette does not have the confidence in his team to use speed and skill to attack the trap. Or (gasp) he hasn't come up with a game-plan to do it.
Now onto the recourse of actions that COULD take place; there was an outcry immediately on twitter over this stall tactic by the Flyers; "This games on National TV... Way to sell it boys!" tweeted Toronto Maple Leafs forward Joffrey Lupul. It was quite a boring game, and actually made a mockery of the game we all love. A lot of American's don't want to watch hockey, and after seeing this display I can't say I blame them, if this is a sign of things to come in the NHL, I will even turn off my TV and do some home work instead of watching a hockey game. It's boring and it’s dry, fans don't spend good money to see that! If I had been at that game I would have demanded a refund, for the lack of hockey I witnessed. Now it's kind of good for a chuckle in a one off situation, but for those of us, that know and love the game of hockey it was a total mockery, that should not have taken place! "Yes, this is typically something that could really hurt hockey," said former NHL head coach Marc Crawford. "Fans don't want to watch that type of a system where nothing is happening. I think unfortunately this is absolutely something that the league will have to address." You know what people are propping now? that we have a defencive zone time clock, like in basketball, you know the teams would have a certain amount of seconds to carry the puck out of their end before a buzzer sounds and there would be a face-off. That would absolutely ruin the game of hockey, I would stop watching! There is an art or finesse of teams having a break out strategy, and it is super positive when your team has their opponent pinned in their own defencive end, it means good things will come; either a goal or a penalty due to the tiredness of the opponents. It would make our game even softer than it is becoming!
So I'll leave you with this; It was a mockery of the game. and absolutely pathetic, their should have been a delay of game penalty called (rule 61.3 I believe) and it should never happen again! Laviolette ultimately cost his team 2 points, by trying to make a mockery out his opponents and bring something, that doesn't need any attention to the General Mangers meeting next week, thank you Mr. Laviolette! gee I hope the Flyers don't miss the play-offs by 2 points!