Thoughts On Tampa Bay Lightning’s 1-3-1


Now I am sure that most of you who are reading this have already rolled their eyes after seeing the title.  Either in disgust (because it’s the 1-3-1) or because they are tired of hearing the argument.  Both sides of the argument have their merits, however I wanted to share my feelings on the matter, to bring in what I hope to be a different perspective.

November 9, 2011, a day that will forever be known as the day the Tampa 1-3-1 (to be read like Kiffin’s Tampa 2 when he was with the Buccaneers) drove Mike Milbury off the NHL on Versus set.  The day when the Philadelphia Flyers, stood in their defensive end with the puck, not willing to attack, not willing to play… and being applauded for it in some circles, being applauded for inaction (or as they would have you believe, for exposing why the Tampa 1-3-1 is “bad for hockey.”)  As Chris Pronger said “It’s not hockey in my book.  … But whatever.  The league is letting them do it.  Would you pay money to watch that?”  Well Mr. Pronger, I would pay money to watch the Lightning execute a 1-3-1 (or trap), rather than pay money to watch y’all sit back and not play the puck.  (On an additional note this was Coach Guy Boucher’s response when asked about the 1-3-1 and the Flyers not attacking)

That night I was in, let’s say, a discussion with a number of Flyers fans, who were in essence claiming the 1-3-1 to be an affront to hockey, blasphemy in the eyes of the great hockey gods.  I listened to their arguments, agreed that I would like to see a little more fore checking by the Bolts, but that the inaction of the Philadelphia Flyers was a greater injustice to the Canon Law of Hockey.  As one can imagine, that of course, did not go over too well.
Now, Novemeber 9, 2011 was not the first time the Tampa 1-3-1 was criticized.  THN’s Ken Campbell wrote an article about it during the 2011 playoff run.  However in this same article, he points out one way to attack it, and that wasn’t just sitting back on your heels, playing with the puck in your own end.  The method pointed out was to “get the puck moving,” which on November 25 of this year, when the Lightning were in Sunrise, FL taking on the Panthers, you saw just that.  The Bolts shifted to the 1-3-1, what did the Panthers do?  They attacked, they rushed up the ice, and notched a few shots!  Was anything mentioned about that?  No.  It boils down to the fact that the Panthers were not cowardly lions when facing the Bolts and the Broad Street Bullies, well didn’t want themselves to be bullied in the neutral zone, so they “hid at home” in their defensive zone.

As for another take on this issue, in other sports, such as football and baseball (sorry I don’t consider basketball worth mentioning other than to mention it is not worth mentioning) strong defensive stands are lauded as being great, pitching battles are lauded as being great.  For me watching a defense completely shut-down their opponent’s offense is exciting!  Though, in hockey it is a bit different, as offense and defense are on the ice at the same time.  It was said (this is paraphrased and I’m sorry but I do not remember if it was Mike Milbury or Keith Jones) that it was a travesty that the Tampa 1-3-1 was holding back their stars (Marty St. Louis, Steven Stamkos, Vincent Lecavalier, etc) however it was those same stars that were helping to win games in the 1-3-1 during the playoffs of last year.  Whether it was the Bolt Captain notching a game winning goal in OT, Stammer blocking shots, or Marty doing what he does best, playing hard in every aspect of the game to make chances happen, the stars still had their effect.  But really, it’s not Marty or Stammer alone that win games, without a good corps of blue-liners and solid net minding, not even the Great One could win games on his own.

The 1-3-1 is not bad hockey, it is a part of hockey.  What’s bad for hockey, are teams willing to not attack with the puck once they are in possession.

Take care and take it easy!
– Black Sheep Jim

Follow myself @BlackSheepJim and of course @BoltsByTheBay on Twitter!