TAMPA - When a system is referred to as the Torpedo, it conjures up images of an attack.
However, that title sure makes the 1-3-1 ‘forechecking’ gameplan often used by the Tampa Bay Lightning a misnomer.
The Calgary Flames will get their chance Thursday to face the host Lightning and their system (5:30 p.m., Sportsnet Flames), which received all kinds of attention a few weeks ago when the Philadelphia Flyers responded by not moving the puck out of their defensive zone to the point play was called because absolutely nothing was happening.
“We played them last year when they did it, and to be honest, I didn’t think it as anything revolutionary,” said Flames centre Brendan Morrison, recalling the 4-2 win by the veteran forward and the host club at the Saddledome. “It works for them — they’ve been successful — but it’s not a situation where you step back and scratch your head saying, ‘Oh my God, how do we break this down?’
“We actually fared pretty well against it last year. The key is you’ve got to keep moving.”
The Lightning aren’t the only NHL club to incorporate the 1-3-1 gameplan — which is designed to clog the neutral zone when the other team has possession of the puck — but somehow Tampa Bay’s squad has become synonymous with it.
It’s much like how the New Jersey Devils and the Minnesota Wild were universally panned in years past for utilizing the left-wing lock.
The Flames are going into their clash with the belief they don’t want to spend too much time worrying about what the Lightning plan to do, preferring to concentrate on what they must do to be most effective.
“We’re going to make a few adjustments for their system, as we do on a daily basis preparing for another team, but it’s going to come down to what we do on the ice and how we execute,” said Flames left winger Alex Tanguay. “We’re capable of playing good games, and they’ve been struggling a little bit lately, so for us, we have to make sure we go out there and get some points.”
To say the Lightning are struggling lately is an understatement.
Heading into the latest rematch of the 2004 Stanley Cup final, the Lightning have just one win in eight games, and that was a come-from-behind shootout victory over the New York Rangers in a tilt which became known more the shotgun celebration by Rangers forward Artem Anisimov after a goal.
The Lightning have been outscored 31-16 in their swoon, and — if matters weren’t bad enough — they are currently without star player Martin St. Louis due to injury.
Still, the Lightning boast enough talent with the likes of fellow forward talents Steven Stamkos and Vincent Lecavalier to cobble together wins.
“I know there’s been a lot of talk about (the 1-3-1), but you can’t get caught up in it. You’ve got to play your game. You’ve got to play like you can play,” said Flames head coach Brent Sutter. “There’s been teams that had success against it, too. You’ve seen it enough and know how to adjust and adapt to it. We’ll make those adjustments, making sure we’re doing what we need to against it.”
Sutter and the rest of his coaching staff tuned into the Bolts’ last game — a 5-4 Monday loss to the New Jersey Devils — in which the Devils controlled more than the final score indicated.
“They got pucks in transition quickly and didn’t allow (the Lightning) to get in that (Torpedo) situation. There’s way to defend against it and ways to beat it,” Sutter said.
Coming off a disappointing 2-1 loss Tuesday night to the Nashville Predators, the Flames should have reason to instil their gameplan on the hosts.
Plus they know they blew a chance to pull a little bit closer to being in the Western Conference’s top eight with that loss in Music City, USA.
“We know where we stand. We’ve been battling extremely hard to get back in the thick of things, and here we are,” Tanguay said. “Let’s go out and try to play a solid game in Tampa and (Friday night) in Florida.
“If we go four of out six (of the remaining points available on this road trip), we’ll be close to a playoff spot.”
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