T-Bay trap 'different' to see

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:44 AM ET

CALGARY - The tactics employed by the Philadelphia Flyers in Wednesday night’s clash with the Tampa Bay Lightning weren’t on display for the first time.

“When I was in Washington, we did that last year in one game,” recalled Calgary Flames defenceman Scott Hannan. “We got up by a goal, and it took (the Lightning) a while, but they were forced to attack more because of it, and it opened things up.

“It’s different to see.”

‘Different.’ Sure, that could be one word to call it.

‘Boring’ is another. As is ‘embarrassing.’

The Lightning, despite having all kinds of offensive talent in the likes of Martin St. Louis, Steven Stamkos and Vincent Lecavalier, often employ a 1-3-1 neutral-zone defensive system.

(We won’t even try to call it a forechecking plan, since seldom does the lead player barely cross the offensive blueline.)

During Wednesday’s clash, the Flyers defencemen opted to not even bother moving the puck out of their zone while the Lightning skaters — one at the Flyers blueline, three across the centre-line and another defenceman at the far blueline — waited.

And waited.

And waited.

And waited.

The first couple of times the Flyers remained in their zone, play was eventually whistled down by the officials because the puck didn’t move for more than 30 seconds.

The Flyers then opted to move the puck around instead of just standing still, but the Lightning skaters still didn’t come at them, making the game — televised nationally across the U.S. — a game of chicken.

“I didn’t see much of the game, just the highlights this morning, but you want to see hockey,” said Flames winger Alex Tanguay. “People pay to see a show. People pay to see skating and skills and stuff like that. It’s working for them, but if I was a fan paying I would much rather see a team that’s aggressive and skating than a team that’s waiting for something out there, I’m not sure what.”

Tanguay admitted there are times teams must play in a defensive shell as the Lightning are apt to do, but these antics happened in the first minute.

“Early in the game, people in the stands want to see action,” Tanguay said. “Those people are making our livelihood and what we are, so we’ve got to respect them and give a good show.”

But who’s to blame?

The Bolts, who won the game 2-1 in overtime (the third straight game they’ve claimed in extra time), are culpable for not bothering to attack. The NBA brought in an illegal defence rule to prevent teams from something similar.

The Flyers, the NHL’s highest scoring team going into the night, looked like they employed the strategy as a sign of protest.

As much as Flames players admitted the entertainment value of the game was diminished — it will be curious to see whether the Flyers will employ the same tactic in their own arena — they understood what both coaches were trying to accomplish.

“It’s about winning games,” centre Olli Jokinen said. “Sometimes, it doesn’t have to be pretty. Sometimes, you have to be patient. I think it’s an example why those teams are top teams in the Eastern Conference, especially Tampa Bay. You’ve got all those high-skilled players, but they do what their coach tells them to do, and I think that makes them be a good team.”

Naturally, the response to Jokinen was whether it’s enjoyable for fans to see.

“Well, I’m not a fan. You can’t blame the Lightning coach. He took the team to a conference final, and you can’t blame Philly for having a gameplan. I think it’s smart coaching on both sides.”


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