Tag: 1-3-1 defense

Gary Bettman

Gary Bettman doesn’t want knee-jerk reaction to stall tactics


A huge chunk of the hockey world weighed in on the strange stalling scene between the Philadelphia Flyers and Tampa Bay Lightning, so it only makes sense that NHL commissioner Gary Bettman gave his own take on the issue.

“Did I like it? No. Is it the most horrible thing I’ve ever seen on the ice? No,” Bettman said. “But I do think it has now added another agenda item to the general managers (meetings) next week.”

Naturally, the worry is that the league will overreact to Peter Laviolette’s puck-based political statement. Bettman said that the on-ice officials handled the situation appropriately and that the NHL wants to avoid a knee-jerk reaction regarding what might just be an isolated incident. At the same time, he also said that the league might “deal with” trap-type strategies if they “became too prevalent and too much of the game and too regular.”

Obviously there are people who are probably on the extremes of this discussion (perhaps they should be called trap abolitionists vs. defensive enthusiasts?), but most of us hope for minimal changes – if any at all. It sounds like Bettman is in tune with the majority here, but he was wise to hedge his bets.

If you haven’t seen it yet, here’s some video footage from that strange night:

Here’s what they’re saying about the Tampa Trap/Philly Stall


Some reactions from around the interweb to last night’s Flyers-Lightning fiasco…

Scott Burnside, ESPN: “Anyone who thinks having 10 guys go rigor mortis is going to happen every night, well, those same people also likely think the Columbus Blue Jackets are on the right track.

“Of course, there will now be debates about whether a penalty should be imposed for inertia. Go ahead. It will be called about as often as the so-called ‘Sean Avery penalty’ that was rushed into existence after he did his stick shimmy in front of Martin Brodeur in the playoffs.”

Greg Wyshynski, Yahoo! Puck Daddy: “While we don’t favor reactionary rule changes, we do acknowledge the necessity to occasionally close loopholes. So is it time for an NHL “shot clock” to prevent what the Flyers did last night? Last night’s first period was a car wreck; the next time we see it, we may not feel the need to ogle so intently.

“So what to do? Put a 20-second clock on teams in their own zone, mandating they skate or pass out of the zone in the time period or else face a penalty? Well, then we might have teams skating over the blue line and then back into the zone, like a wrestler breaking a referee’s count by rolling in and out of the ring. You can’t be that specific about it.

“Which is why the ‘Shot Clock’ — and I can’t believe I’m saying this — needs to be up to the discretion of the referee, rather than a ticking countdown on the scoreboard. It needs to be a matter of intent.”

Tim Wharnsby, CBC: “But can the league do anything? There is little doubt that this will be a topic at the NHL general managers meeting in Toronto on Tuesday. Maybe they can come up with a rule to make the team without the puck to engage in its forecheck a little more than the Lightning do. But unless what the Flyers did last night becomes more prevalent in games the Lightning decide to sit back, why succumb to the hasty reaction out there?”

Dave Feschuk, Toronto Star: “If the NHL is serious about increasing scoring and making a skill-based game more aesthetically appealing, it will think hard about finding a way to make it illegal. Kudos to Philadelphia coach Peter Laviolette for creatively exposing one of the game’s banes.

“As Jaromir Jagr said of the game, which ended in a 2-1 Tampa overtime victory: ‘It was like a chess match.’

“Waiting for a checkmate has never been a TV-ratings smash for a reason. Minimizing the impact of coaching strategy while maximizing the exposure of the game’s highly skilled stars should be the NHL’s next move.”

Mark Spector, Sportsnet: “There are tactics that exist, however, that can pry a trap open far enough for a player to dart through with the puck. Then the pendulum swings, and a group of Tampa forwards who are standing still are apt to take a penalty on a speedy Philly puck carrier.

“Score on the resulting powerplay and you’ve got the lead, and like Tylenol for a headache, the surest way to stop your opponent from trapping is to get ahead of him on the scoreboard.

“But, either [Peter] Laviolette does not have the confidence in his team to use speed and skill to attack the trap. Or (gasp) he hasn’t game-planned a way to do it.”

Mike Halford, PHT: Hopefully there’s no knee-jerk reaction to this. Last night was a perfect storm — nationally televised game, two headstrong coaches and one guy (Pronger) who is completely comfortable being booed while in possession of the puck. Everything was in place for it to be a PR nightmare. Which it was.

Thing is, I just can’t see it happening all that often. If Tampa’s 1-3-1 was truly an impenetrable force, the Lightning would be 15-0-0 rather than 8-5-2. They also wouldn’t have lost games by scores of 7-4, 6-5, 5-1, 4-2 and 4-1.

I liken this to 2008, when the Wildcat Formation gained huge notoriety in the NFL. For a while the Wildcat was the greatest, most innovative scheme the football world had ever seen (even though it’d been used since the 90s) and it looked almost impossible to figure out.

Then it took about eight weeks for defensive coordinators to figure out how to stop it. Now ask yourself: When’s the last time you’ve seen a Wildcat Formation?

And that’s the thing — eventually, NHL coaches will figure out how to break Tampa’s 1-3-1. On that note, I leave you with this tweet from Sportsnet’s Arash Madani:


Who’s to blame for all the stalling nonsense?

Guy Boucher

By now you already know about how the Flyers opted to counterattack the Lightning’s 1-3-1 defensive alignment. By not attacking it all and stalling with the puck in their own end, the Flyers managed to create a fevered debate about who is right and wrong in this whole situation and the truth is everyone should be shouldering the blame.

Guy Boucher’s strategy is nothing new by him. He’s used the 1-3-1 since he’s coached in juniors and it frustrated the hell out of teams there to the point they’d do the same thing the Flyers did. Obviously, the critics of his defensive scheme are many. Chris Pronger wondered aloud (very loud) after the game why anyone would pay to see something that wasn’t hockey.

Even Boucher doesn’t have a supporter in legendary coach Scotty Bowman. Bowman was in attendance for last night’s display of civil disobedience and tactical play and felt that the league has to do something about Boucher’s scheme capping off his thoughts saying, “This used to be the fastest game on ice.” That’s big talk coming from the coach who used the “left wing lock” to shut teams down.

Boucher’s scheme runs sour because his 1-3-1 setup doesn’t have the lead forechecker do any pressuring of the puck carrier at all. Instead they sit in the neutral zone and wait, clogging things up and making it difficult to break through. By not challenging the play, that takes the spirit out of the game. Laying in wait is a perfectly legal strategy, but it’s a brutally boring one for what’s meant to be an exciting game.

source:  The Flyers aren’t blameless here though. Peter Laviolette is the first coach to seemingly take a stand on things and while he says his own attack scheme is based on having a forechecker pressure the play, that’s a coy explanation for actively causing a disturbance. By not bearing down and forcing Tampa to action, the Flyers take even more blame in this by making a game-slowing defense into a game-stopping situation. Famed coach Roger Neilson would’ve been proud of Laviolette’s curious stand.

Because of that, the threat of killing the pace of the game will make the NHL Board of Governors have to discuss things at the GM meetings next month. The last thing the league wants is a return of the “dead puck” era and see their product ground down into a mind-numbing bore fest.

Every team traps in their own different ways so blaming that in general is wrong. Regardless of who you support in this debate, the NHL will be forced to craft an answer for how to handle this.