Tampa Bay Lightning: Will NHL Hijinx Continue in Saturday's Rematch with Flyers?

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In case you missed it, there was a great chess match going on between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Philadelphia Flyers on November 9th earlier in the season in Tampa.

Lightning head coach Guy Boucher likes to run a defensive-minded forecheck, running a very high 1-3-1, meaning he sends one forward just inside the offensive zone, with three players along the red line at center ice, and one defender back at his own blue line.

As seen in the video here, the Flyers simply wanted no part of it. Essentially, the Flyers elected to do nothing because they didn't like the way Tampa was playing defense. The whistle was blown numerous times during these stalemates, in which the Philadelphia defenders were standing still with the puck, resulting in a defensive zone faceoff for the Flyers. According to the Philadelphia Inquirera league official contacted Toronto during the game to figure out what to do, in which he or she was told that the Flyers had to keep the puck in motion.

Under Rule 72 of the NHL, that is certainly correct. Rule 72.1 somewhat vaguely states:

72.1 Refusing or Abstaining from Playing the Puck - The purpose of this section is to enforce continuous action and both Referees and Linesmen should interpret and apply the rule to produce this result.

Now, that rule mainly applies to players not touching the puck, such as on a delayed penalty to waste time, or on a delayed high-sticking or hand-pass call. Regardless, the above video came later in the first, after the Flyers had already held the puck at a standstill. Technically, they're doing nothing wrong here, as they are keeping the puck in continuous motion. Since the referees and linesmen had some discretion to exert, "continuous action" likely meant the game overall, in which case, there was surely no continuous flow here.   

 

Going into that game, the Bolts were ranked 24th in goals against, evidently noting that other teams are not struggling to score on this club. The Versus announcers and the Flyers alike were both wrong in criticizing the Bolts for playing that trap. I understand it looks boring and intimidating, but you shouldn't be in the NHL if you can't advance against a team whose defense you find unbeatable. It's truly an absurdity that never should have surfaced especially because, again, Tampa was amongst the league's worst in allowing goals. 

That game ended in a 2-1 Tampa Bay overtime victory, by the way, and somewhere in between this chess match and media frenzy is a hockey game to be played Saturday night in Philadelphia. Dwayne Roloson started in the last meeting of these two, but with his struggles of late, Mathieu Garon, coming off a big win over the New York Rangers, may get the nod from Guy Boucher. Ilya Bryzgalov would make his fifth straight start between the pipes for Philadelphia. It's tough to say if he'll be the guy in goal definitively, especially coming off back-to-back starts on Wednesday and Thursday. The Lightning boast some headlining offensive prowess, but Philadelphia has some top guns of their own. With a red-hot Claude Giroux, the Flyers have the tools to penetrate the Bolts defense and make it pay, should this situation arise again.     

Perhaps Philly should take a page out of Charlie Conway's playbook (at 2:30), and run the "Dwayne Robertson flip," having all the forwards rush past the Lightning defense at the same time in an effort to catch the pass. Hey, if you time it right, it could work perfectly. All kidding aside, it will be interesting to see how Saturday's rematch goes down.

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