The Puck Drunk Love Game of the Week: Flyers Employ Waiting Game, Still Fall to Lightning

Boxscore | Game Summary

Be sure to scroll down below the game wrap up where I discuss the “waiting game” of the Flyers…

The Flyers and Lightning came into tonight’s tilt featuring high powered offenses that have been scoring boatloads and winning games. Both teams will look to try to get on the board early and establish a lead to protect.

In the first minute of the opening period, the Lightning immediately showed their 1-3-1 defensive system (one forechecker, three in the neutral zone, one defensemen deep). To answer, Braydon Coburn literally stood still with the puck in his own defensive zone, waiting for St. Louis to forecheck. Coburn stayed still until the officials blew a whistle to force a faceoff in Philly’s zone. It was one of the strangest things I’d ever seen.

Five minutes later, Chris Pronger would pull the same waiting stunt again. The officials would again blow the whistle and talk to Peter Laviolette about it, basically stating that the puck needs to be kept in motion. Interesting to see how this will play out.

About halfway through the first, while the Lightning were on a powerplay, Flyers rookie forward Matt Read made a fantastic play by chipping the puck past Vinny Lecavalier and blowing into the Lightning zone. Lecavalier would make an incredible effort to just keep up with Read enough to get on top of his stick to break up the breakaway and nullify the chance.

Again, with about eight minutes left in the first, the Flyers would again play the waiting game. However, in order to appease the officials, Coburn & Timmonen would pass the puck back and forth for about 15 or 20 seconds then eventually move the puck up slowly. The Lightning were absolutely keeping the Flyers offense in check with the 1-3-1 defense, they had only four shots at this point.

The period would end in a scoreless tie, but the story was the Flyers basically trolling the Lightning the entire period. The waiting game strategy would be used at least three more times after my last mention of it above. Only once did Tampa bail on their 1-3-1 strategy and Philly still couldn’t get anything effective going. It was obvious that the Flyers came into the game expecting the 1-3-1 defense by Tampa and thought of different strategies to oppose it. There was the waiting game, dumping on goal from the red line, extremely hard dump ins (so the puck rings around the boards), but none of them were very effective.

Tampa had the bulk of the solid scoring chances in the first, but Bryzgalov was willing and able to stop all the chances. The Flyers are the ones that have to make big adjustments going into the second because none of their tactics were effective in really generating any offense. Not only that, they were drawing the ire of not only the officials, but I’m sure it caught the eyes of the NHL.

The second period would see the Lightning slightly adjust their strategy by getting their sole forechecker in on the attack for just a few moments then fall back. They also employed a 2-1-2 forecheck as well. That seemed to appease the Flyers at least a little bit, so there was no more waiting game.

Halfway through the second on a powerplay, the Flyers would strike first. Matt Read wins a faceoff against Dominic Moore. Scott Hartnell helps out and gets the puck up to the point to Jacob Voracek who goes point-to-point. The puck comes right back to Voracek who let a shot fly which gets redirected by Scott Hartnell in the slot on a fantastic tip which beats Dwayne Roloson. 1-0 Flyers.

The second period would end with the Flyers ahead 1-0. Tampa would have their opportunities, most notably when Chris Pronger took back-to-back minor penalties. As previously stated, the Lightning made some minor adjustments to their tactics and the Flyers continued to play as they did in the first. The Flyers aren’t sustaining much pressure, but neither are the Lightning at this point.

Three mintues into the third, Steve Downie would challenge Braydon Coburn. Downie gives up a ton of size and reach to Coburn and Downie would make a couple big hits early, but Coburn wound up landing several uppercuts. Downie would eventually give it up, but a good scrap.

In the middle of the third, the Lightning would get their fifth powerplay opportunity. After a lot of solid possession and passing, the puck would get worked from low to high to Stamkos who would feed Bergeron on the point for a one-timer. The shot would get through a Flyer screening Bryzgalov and beat him high blocker to tie the game at 1.

Sixty minutes would wind up not being enough for the Flyers and Lightning and they would head to overtime. It would only take a few minutes for Brett Connolly to take a rebound from a fantastic drive by Dominic Moore. Connolly would drive hard to the net and the puck would come right to him, giving the Lightning their seventh win out of the last nine games.

The Waiting Game…

The big story coming out of the game tonight however was the waiting game employed by the Flyers. It was an attempt to lure the Lightning out of their 1-3-1 defensive scheme.

During the first intermission on Versus, Mike Milbury and Keith Jones discussed the Flyers waiting game and applauded the decision by Laviolette to make this play against the 1-3-1 defensive scheme. Personally, I think there’s no place for them to attack Guy Boucher’s system. People attacked the trap that the New Jersey Devils employed in the mid 90’s and said it was ruining the game. Ultimately, the game changed, and the trap had to evolve. Eventually, it evolved into the 1-3-1 and I don’t see a problem with it. If as many people as Milbury, Jones & McGuire claim have a problem with it really do, then the 1-3-1 will have to adapt to how the game changes. Milbury & Jones both stated they felt it was “bad for the game” and that the fans in the stands came to see Lecavalier, St. Louis & Stamkos play hockey. Problem is, they play in Boucher’s system. If the coach wants them to play that system, which has been very successful, they’re going to play that system.

Furthering that point, during the second period, Pierre asked Eddie Olczyk if he was still playing, and a coach asked him to play that system if he would. He said that if the team had the type of success the Lightning did, he’d do it. In all honesty, you’d have to be a really shitty teammate to say “I don’t want to play this system, which is causing us to win games, because it isn’t exciting enough or doesn’t showcase my talents enough.”

That said, I don’t blame the Flyers for their tactic either. Trying to goad the head forward of the 1-3-1 into a forecheck is a good place to start when trying to break the system. Just as the 1-3-1 is an attempt to force the opponent into making mistakes and getting them out of their comfort zone, the Flyers waiting game is the same tactic. Try to get the Lightning to forecheck harder and more aggressively than they plan and they will make mistakes.

Was this the most exciting game of hockey I’ve seen? Not that first period, but the rest of it was certainly exciting. However, the great part about that first period, is that you could feel the animosity between the clubs building, the tension tightening, and everyone getting a little less patient. Those are the kinds of games I love. When you’re constantly wondering what’s going to happen next. I understand that’s not going to fly for the casual fan, but not every single game can appeal to the casual fan. If they’re going to become fans, they’ll eventually get their own tastes of what types of games they enjoy (goaltender battles vs. offensive shootouts, for example) and what types they don’t. Hockey is fluid and ever changing, and that’s something every fan should learn as well.

Random Observations:

  • Pronger just looks weird with a visor. But good on him for wearing it.
  • It took under ten seconds for Pierre to mention that Guy Boucher gets last change.
  • I’ve never not amazed at how quickly Marty St. Louis gets to top speed. Almost instantaneous.
  • Watching Lecavalier, St. Louis & Stamkos play on a line together is an absolute treat.
  • I think Pierre just mentioned the Matt Read is out of Bemidji State again.

Three Stars:

  1. Brett Connolly: Game winning OT goal.
  2. Bergeron: Game tying powerplay goal.
  3. Scott Hartnell: Scored the Flyer’s only goal.