Wednesday Night’s game between the Flyers and Lightning was at the very least a bizarre game. Why is this?
The Flyers, mindful of the Lightning’s 1-3-1 neutral-zone trap, didn’t advance the puck out of their defensive zone unless a Lightning player forechecked. There were three instances in the first period where the Flyers refused to exit their own zone, stalling play for nearly a minute in some instances.
After the first and second instances, officials blew the whistle and made the faceoff in the Flyers’ end. Peter Laviolette went back and forth with referee Rob Martell to figure out what the proper protocol is. As long as the puck is constantly moving — and the Flyers were skating it around within their zone — it isn’t a penalty.
Flyers on the bench stood up to taunt the Lightning players on the ice for not forechecking. After one period of play, there were 13 total shots — seven for the Lightning, six for the Flyers.
At the intermission break, NHL Sports commentators Mike Milbury and Keith Jones condemned Tampa Bay’s style saying it was something that shouldn’t be in the NHL’s game. “Good for the other 29 teams,” said Milbury, for not implementing such a system.
So, is this “trap/stalling” controversy going away anytime soon? Well at least not for a while since it will be one of the issues tabled at Tuesday’s NHL general manager’s meeting in Toronto, which should prove interesting as both Philadelphia’s Paul Holmgren and Tampa’s Steve Yzerman will be in attendance.
So who is to blame in this game? “My TSN colleague Bob McKenzie polled GMs around the league and asked them which team they blamed for Wednesday’s controversy,” LeBrun writes. “As of 7 pm ET Thursday, 18 GMs responded; 13 blamed Tampa, three blamed Philadelphia and two stayed neutral. Eight of the 13 who said it was Tampa Bay’s fault said they were in favor of instituting new rules or penalties to combat the 1-3-1 trap.”
With all this being said, I don’t know believe that we are going to see any rules changes in the near future because this is going to be looked at from a “big picture” point of view. The last time the NHL fast-tracked a rule change was the infamous “Sean Avery Rule” during the 2008 playoffs, when the wording of unsportsmanlike conduct was widened to include waving arms and/or sticks in front of a goaltender’s face.
And ironically, the last player to have the “Sean Avery Rule” thrown at them was…Chris Pronger which is in itself a very controversial call to this day. So I think that the NHL is going to continue to watch the trap/stall tactics and the 1-3-1 style of play very closely before making a ruling.
For fans, this was probably one of the worst games to ever watch due to the 1-3-1 style and the “trapping” that Tampa Bay was trying to do.