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.
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.