Flyers Fall in Overtime; Controversy Awaits?
Wednesday night, the Tampa Bay Lightning (8-5-2) defeated the Philadelphia Flyers (8-4-3) in overtime, 2-1.
Midway through the second period, the Flyers found the net for the only time of the night when Scott Hartnell deflected a Jakub Voracek point shot by Dwayne Roloson.
Tampa would knot the game at 1-1 7:41 into the final period when Marc Andre Bergeron rifled a slap shot past Ilya Bryzgalov. The goal came on the power play and ended the Flyers streak of 20 consecutive penalties killed.
In overtime, Lightning rookie Brett Connolly scored his third goal of the season, beating Bryzgalov exactly halfway through the 4-on-4 session. On the play, Andrej Meszaros misplayed a rebound off a Lightning shot and Connolly was in position to win the game.
That’s the story of the game.
But, that isn’t the story of Wednesday’s game.
Wednesday’s game was about the strategy employed by Lightning coach Guy Boucher and the counter-attack, or lack thereof, by Peter Laviolette.
In one of last year’s meetings, the Flyers held the puck in their own offensive zone to combat Tampa Bay’s 1-3-1 defense. Wednesday, they did it almost exclusively through the first two periods.
With the VERSUS TV crew frantically deciding how to decide about what was going on, the fans in Tampa booed. Twice, play was blown dead for the Flyers not moving with the puck.
They would adjust to avoid the penalty as the game wore on, skating in circles in the defensive zone. Twitter was ablaze with criticism of both sides and the heavyweights in the hockey world all chimed in with their thoughts.
In the new NHL, the emphasis is speed, skill, and scoring. There’s no doubt that the league wants to sell and grow their product. With a national broadcast audience flipping the channel to a defenseman in white holding the puck, it’s safe to assume the NHL was unhappy.
Laviolette wanted to play his game and call his shot -- that much is clear after Wednesday. Without any effort to move the puck forward, he stood his ground.
When the delay of game was called, Laviolette gave the referee an earful. The second time, he did the same.
In essence, the Flyers coach was saying, "If you won’t play the way I think you should, then we won’t play until you change your mind."
Although many are empathetic to Laviolette’s strategy, the endless question will be, is it fair? Each coach has an obligation to attempt to win the game, and while he didn’t reach that obligation with his team’s stalling, he didn’t prevent them from winning either.
On a deeper note, his job is to orchestrate his team in the best way possible to win. It’s to the Flyers advantage when Tampa comes out of their trap. So without any way to force them out, why not make them wait it out?
Will the NHL decide to change the rules in light of Wednesday’s outcry? Maybe not, as the Flyers are the only team that has implemented such a strategy on such a stage.
However, there are some reasons why there may be a change of legality in the rulebook.
One of the most important reasons is that with teams possessing the likes of Claude Giroux, Jaromir Jagr, Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos, no one wins when the game stands still. The biggest loser in the situation is VERSUS, the NHL’s pipeline to a national audience.
What’s good for VERSUS is good for the NHL and vice versa. Quite a few bills are paid with the checks coming to the league from Comcast’s major network.
Another significant reason for possible action is the likelihood that other teams employ the same strategy against Tampa Bay. If that’s the case, everyone loses.
It seems unlikely that Boucher would up and change his team’s strategy due to displeasure from those around the league. A year removed from his team finishing just one game from winning the Eastern Conference last year, it’s highly unlikely.
The real shame of the action in the first two periods Wednesday night in Tampa Bay is further exemplified by this post.
Instead of illustrating the action of the game and the pivotal moments in detail, the strategy and subsequent controversy is addressed as the bigger issue.
Some came to read a detailed summary, much like those who turned on VERSUS to watch 60 minutes of great hockey.
It didn’t happen.
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