In a game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Philadelphia Flyers last week, hockey came to a standstill. Literally. The Lightning, playing their famous 1-3-1 neutral zone trap, refused to enter the Flyers’ zone and forecheck. The Flyers, undeterred, refused to skate out of their zone. So, there it was, 5 men aside, all standing still, on the ice. It was not pretty. This happened several times throughout the game, with the officials having to blow the play dead after about 15 seconds of stagnation.One could applaud Tampa’s coach, Guy Boucher, on sticking to his gameplan and not responding to the opposition. However, hockey prides itself as being the fastest game in the world (ya, I said it), and this act of stubborness on Boucher’s part was a travesty. He was more concerned with proving he was right than contributing to the game of hockey and developing his players.
Peter Laviolette, the Flyers’ coach, clearly employed this strategy to mock Boucher’s squad, and I liked that. Adding to this, as the Lightning players clogged up the neutral zone, refusing to forecheck, the entire Flyers’ bench was standing, learning over the boards, taunting the Lightning players for their cowardice. And I like that too. Although the Lightning ended up winning the game 2-1 (I guess Boucher’s stubbornness paid off) I can’t help but wonder what his players were thinking during the game. Have they completely bought into his system? Or were they affected by the taunting and secretly embarrassed to play such a defensive style of play?
This game has spawned discussion of whether or not zone defenses should be illegal in hockey. Although I was not a fan of this debacle, I am against outlawing zone defenses, as I think it would be a knee-jerk reaction to implement new rules now, and create more problems than it would solve. The NHL will have to wait and see if any other occurrences like this happen before making any decisions. Let’s hope it was an isolated incident.
See ya WP, it’s been a slice!