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Could the Lightning’s enforcer-free system put them at risk against the Bruins?

May 16, 2011, 4:42 PM EDT

Tampa Bay Lightning v Boston Bruins - Game One Getty Images

As Joe discussed following Game 1, the Boston Bruins decided to “send some messages” once it was obvious the Tampa Bay Lightning would win. While the late game incidents made many wonder if the league should respond, Damian Cristodero wonders if the Lightning might regret their enforcer-free policy.

In case you weren’t aware, the Lightning are opposed to dressing players whose only mission is to fight. It’s a standard set by general manager Steve Yzerman (from the rarely fighting Detroit Red Wings organization) and head coach Guy Boucher, who also prefers using players who can actually play the game. Boucher and Yzerman preach to players to avoid retaliating when other teams start scrums that will often result in penalties, subscribing to the Red Wings’ tradition of “making them pay on the scoreboard” thanks to the frequently resulting power plays.

Conversely, some wonder if that borderline pacifism puts star players such as Martin St. Louis, Steven Stamkos and Vincent Lecavalier at greater risk for injury. Cristodero discusses the pros and cons of employing a true enforcer rather than going with the Lightning’s belief in “team toughness.”

As we read in today’s paper, the Tampa Bay Lightning is employing a no-retaliation policy against the Bruins. That is, if it is obvious the Bruins (who play physically, especially at home, in the hopes of goading opponents into penalties) are going to be a man down, do not get sucked in to any pushing, shoving or fighting that might mitigate the power play. It also, as coach Guy Boucher said on Sunday, keeps the players focused on team structure rather than worrying about retaliating.

Still, I’m sure there are enough fans who believe the Lightning should stick up for themselves more in situations such as the ones that occurred in Game 1. We saw Dominic Moore take a roundhouse right from Nathan Horton. We saw Victor Hedman get decked by a punch from Milan Lucic without retaliation. Even Vinny Lecavalier said he stopped his physical challenge to Johnny Boychuk after Boychuk slugged him because he saw Boychuk was going to get a penalty.

The question is, though, would any of that stuff not happened in the first place if the Lightning had a legitimate tough guy. Oh, there are several guys who can fight pretty well. We know Steve Downie is not scared of anyone, and Ryan Malone can throw ‘em as can Lecavalier. But, generally, the Lightning is not built that way.

Ultimately, it might come down to personal preference. The Bruins’ feed off physicality and intimidation, but that type of aggression can lead to ill-advised penalties. The Lightning were the smarter and far more successful team in Game 1, so we’ll see if there is any carryover into Game 2.

Considering the success of the Red Wings and the already-impressive start for Yzerman and Boucher in Tampa Bay, it’s pretty tough to argue with their current policies.

  1. kusheadpotman - May 16, 2011 at 7:26 PM

    Looking at the scoreboard in game 1, I’d much rather have players skating the ice who play the game instead of skating to hit someone.

    Last time I checked, the Lightning players hit people while they score on them! What a concept

  2. virusgvr - May 16, 2011 at 11:17 PM

    I hate the lightning. They blow!!!

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