Tampa Bay’s 1-3-1 Trap Can Be Broken, So Can The GMs Drop It?

Since Wednesday’s debacle of a game between the Philadelphia Flyers and the Tampa Bay Lightning, the hockey world has come down on the Bolts and their coach Guy Boucher. In case you missed it, here’s what happened when the Lightning continued to play the 1-3-1 trap that got them to the Eastern Conference Finals:


Needless to say, this is completely the Lightning’s fault. How dare Guy Boucher rely on a system that got the Bolts farther in the playoffs than they’ve been since they won the Stanley Cup? No team should be allowed to stop the natural flow of a hockey game just so they can win! How SELFISH.

Oh, for shit’s sake, general managers. Do you know how stupid it is for you to have even have discussed Boucher’s trap today at the GM’s meeting? Furthermore, was discussion on Philadelphia’s strategy necessary too? They failed to play the puck, the play was called dead, and their point was made. To waste agenda time on something like that is inane. It’s over, it’s done with, and their point was proven.

The funniest thing about the whole situation is, frankly, the point that the Flyers made – that Tampa’s trap slows the game and makes it tough to play – was promptly negated in the Lightning’s next two games. St. Louis, despite all the worry that this game’d be stagnated too, demolished the Lightning’s trap and gameplan to the tune of a 3-0 shutout. They never let them get set up. The forecheckpressured them constantly and overwhelmed their tendency to fall back into their trap. If you can’t set something up, you can’t use it.Coach Ken Hitchcock’s plan was perfect:

“They play with structure, so how do you counteract the structure? To me, it’s like any team. If you allow a team to set up in their structure, they’re going to beat you, doesn’t matter if it’s 1-3-1, 1-2-2 or 2-1-2.

“You have to attack the structure before they set up. … It’s the same as an offensive zone forechecking system. You have to find a way to get by it before it sets its course. So for us it’s about not allowing them to control the tempo of the game.”

That’s it: control the tempo. The Blues did so perfectly, and the Winnipeg Jets – who had lost twelve games straight to the Bolts – managed to do so as well. When you can’t break the trap, you deflect attention away from the fact that you can’t break it via a “statement” like the Flyers made. Perhaps next time the Bolts face Philadelphia, former Blues captain and current Flyers captain ChrisPronger should look back at what his old team did and encourage Flyers coach Peter Laviolette to follow Hitchcock’s lead: just out play them. Then the GMs could spend more time one pertinant issues then, like suspending players for concussing goalies who try to come out of the crease to make an ill advised “impressive” play. That’s far more important.

About Laura Astorian

Laura Astorian is the head editor for the SB Nation blog St. Louis Game Time and has been a Blues fan from childhood. She promises that any anti-Blackhawks bias will be left at the door. Maybe.