TORONTO – The coolest game on ice became the slowest on Wednesday when the Philadelphia Flyers refused to budge in the face of the Tampa Bay Lightning’s 1-3-1 trap.
Reaction varied from amused to critical, but the on-ice standstill may prompt discussion among general managers.
Attention was called to the trap tactics in Tampa Bay’s 2-1 overtime win over the Flyers when Philadelphia refused to move the puck out of its own end against the defensive tactic.
With play stalled for nearly 30 seconds, officials blew the whistle and called for a faceoff. Later, when the Flyers again refused to move into the Lightning’s waiting scheme, the officials had to restart play with a faceoff a second time.
“I thought it was kind of funny myself,” Calgary Flames head coach Brent Sutter said at practice Thursday. “You look at it two ways. Neither team is wrong in what they’re doing, but you don’t want to see it in a game though either.
“I can understand where Philly is coming from. I can understand where Tampa is coming from.”
The trap defensive scheme has a forward cruising near the opponent’s blue-line, three players lined across the ice in the neutral zone and a fifth defender in the defensive end.
Puck carriers are forced toward the boards where they can be double-teamed. The strategy is effective at causing turnovers and slowing down fast, offensive teams.
“The officials handled it absolutely the correct way—and consistent with how similar types of situations have been handled on the ice previously,” NHL senior vice-president Gary Meagher said of the standstill in Tampa. “That said, this specific situation is not covered in the rules but there are certainly rules that cover situations where players are not playing the puck. And in those situations, the whistle’s blown, the faceoff takes place in the offending team’s zone and play on.
“That’s what took place (Wednesday) night. It’s not a situation that we’ve seen exactly but we’ve seen variations of it.”
Meagher said he expects the incident to be discussed when general managers hold their annual fall meeting in Toronto next Tuesday.
Many hockey players applauded Philadelphia for showing up the Lightning.
“I would do the same as the Flyers. Make a joke out of this game. Its a joke,” tweeted Matthew Barnaby, a former NHLer and commentator with ESPN. “On a good note I can still play in nhl at that pace!”
Brendan Morrison of the Calgary Flames also thought Philadelphia made a statement with their passive response to Tampa.
“I think the Flyers were definitely trying to make a point,” Morrison said. “It came across pretty clear. There’s no rules that say you can’t play a 1-3-1.
“We played Tampa in (Calgary) last year and there’s ways to break it down.”
The game in Tampa drew plenty of attention on Twitter.
“What’s more entertaining? The 1-3-1 forecheck or the WNBA?” asked Paul Bissonette of the Phoenix Coyotes.
Bissonette added soon after: “Tampa Bay Lightning are chipping away at our escrow 1-3-1 at a time,” referring to the NHL’s collective bargaining agreement, where any extra profits at the end of the season are redistributed to the players. “#4thlineproblems”
Joffrey Lupul of the Toronto Maple Leafs echoed Bissonette’s concerns.
“This games on National TV… Way to sell it boys!” tweeted Lupul, adding the hashtag “#escrow”.
“‘I cant believe Im missing tonights new episode of X Factor for this.’ -Random guy at his first ever hockey game in Tampa tonight,” tweeted Ryan Jones of the Edmonton Oilers, referring to the reality TV show.
As the game progressed word began to spread of Philadelphia’s response to the trap.
“Whats happening in this phi tbay game that everyones talking about. The boys are out for dinner and wondering?” said Tyler Bozak of the Toronto Maple Leafs, who are in St. Louis for a game against the Blues on Thursday.
When other Twitter users explained the Flyers’ response to Tampa’s trap, Bozak added: “Haha thanks for the responses. Want to see this it sounds hilarious!”
Bozak wasn’t alone in his reaction. Other NHLers were taken aback by Tampa’s reliance on the trap and Philadelphia’s passive tactic.
“Wow… Did that just happen in the Lighting Flyers game..” tweeted Colorado Avalanche defenceman Shane O’Brien.
Daniel Carcillo, who played in Philadelphia last season, quickly replied to O’Brien.
“@ShaneOBrien55 looks like Tampa is playing a sick zone defense out there. #embarrassing,” said Carcillo, now with the Chicago Blackhawks.
With files from The Canadian Press’ Donna Spencer in Calgary.