Flyers Four-Check: 4 Storylines from Flyers vs. Lightning

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Flyers Four-Check: 4 Storylines from Flyers vs. Lightning
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The Philadelphia Flyers fell in overtime to the Tampa Bay Lightning, a 2-1 game that saw two Eastern Conference contenders take strategy to the next level.

The Flyers fell to 8-4-3 and will face the Panthers on Sunday.

 

Coaches vs. Refs vs. Broadcasters

The early-goings of the game featured an abnormally obvious display of hockey strategy, as the Flyers looked to combat Tampa’s 1-3-1 neutral zone strategy with a simple tactic: don’t bite.

Tampa Bay did not send a forechecker into the zone as the Flyers looked to break out of the zone, so in the first minute of the game, defenseman Braydon Coburn let the puck slide off his stick and waited for Martin St. Louis to attack.

St. Louis did not cross the blue line, and the referees blew the play dead, forcing a face off in the Flyers’ zone. 

Peter Laviolette asked for an explanation about the call and was apparently told that the puck was considered frozen.

Minutes later, Chris Pronger employed the same strategy but kept the puck in continuous motion while Steven Stamkos waited at the blue line.  Eventually, the officials stopped play again and forced the Flyers to take a defensive zone draw.

The sequence will likely be discussed in hockey forums for the next few days, as there seemed to be no justifiable reason to stop play.

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Regardless of whether or not the tactic is “good for the sport,” as some people have debated, the officials seemed to be making up rules as they went along. There is no justifiable reason in the rule book that the Flyers cannot hold the puck, particularly if they keep it in motion.

TV analysts and other media members seemed critical of Guy Boucher’s 1-3-1 scheme, a notion that is ridiculous to a true hockey fan.  The Mike Milburys of the world may be interested in ensuring that a nationally broadcast game is high-scoring and fast-paced, but Boucher’s job is to win the game, and this strategy got his team a game away from a Finals appearance last year. 

Some of the outrageous ideas discussed by the Versus crew, including penalizing offensive players for moving backward in the neutral zone in certain situations, are ridiculous attempts to over-legislate the game.

The officials need to be consistent, and the network announcers need to cut out their ridiculous habit of speculating and over-blowing this non-issue.

 

Coburn’s Big Money

Braydon Coburn and Steve Downie went at it all night, culminating in a rare bout for Coburn.

Coburn, who earlier in the day had signed a four-year, $18 million deal to stay with the team, is not known for the fisticuffs, and Downie is one of the more proficient featherweights in the league.

Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Coburn used his six-inch height advantage to win the bout, twisting Downie into an awkward position and pummeling the Bolts’ pest with uppercuts. 

However, Tampa Bay would have the last laugh in overtime, when Dominic Moore caught Coburn flat-footed, and the Flyers’ defenseman found himself off balance and unable to use his strength to muscle Moore off the puck.

Moore one-handed the puck on Bryzgalov and rookie Brett Connolly jumped on the rebound to send the crowd home happy.

 

No-T

The early season has been relatively successful for the Flyers thus far, but overtime has been a glaring issue. 

The team dropped its third extended game in three chances in 2011-12, two overtime losses and one shootout defeat. 

At the start of overtime, the Flyers appeared to have the advantage, as Guy Boucher kept scorers Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis on the bench in favor of a defensive matchup to shut down Peter Laviolette’s starters, Jaromir Jagr and Claude Giroux.  Jagr and Giroux applied offensive pressure but were unable to convert.

Despite strong play by the Flyers, it only took a single sequence for the Lightning to put the game away.  Moore and Connolly skated two-on-two against Coburn and Andrej Meszaros, and Moore’s speed advantage and Meszaros’s inability to tie up Connolly ended the game.

Christopher Pasatieri/Getty Images

Overall, the Flyers’ overtime performances do not seem to be the result of lack of confidence, as the goals by LA’s Jack Johnson and Tampa’s Connolly were not bad goals, but the team will need to develop the ability to control the flow of the game in four-on-four situations in order to succeed long term.  The onus is on Peter Laviolette to find offensive pairings beyond Jagr-Giroux that can be successful.

 

Shooting Blanks

The Flyers only managed a total of 15 shots on Dwayne Roloson, and though the Tampa netminder made a few highlight reel saves, the Flyers generally did not find themselves with an abundance of great scoring chances. 

The team cycled the puck well in the offensive zone and utilized the point well, but the inability to jump on loose pucks quickly and create second and third chances ultimately killed the Flyers. 

On more than one occasion, the Flyers appeared to have the opportunity to fire a shot on Roloson with traffic around him, but elected to make an extra pass or an extra move.  This sort of situation haunted the Flyers at times in 2010-11, and the coaching staff needs to encourage more shooting and less of a perfectionist mentality.

In addition, rookie sensation Sean Couturier would be better utilized in a more offensive role.  His potential contributions are stifled by playing alongside Zac Rinaldo and Harry Zolnierczyk, and his sub-6:00 even strength TOI indicates that the rookie, who has five goals and is a plus-nine on the year, has little chance to consistently threaten in the opponent’s zone.

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