FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger said Thursday that the Tampa Bay Lightning are pushing hockey "into the stone ages."
No word on if he thinks Fred Flintstone should be the Lightning's coach.
The reason for Pronger's anger: The first period of the Flyers-Tampa Bay matchup Wednesday was like watching a Princeton-Penn Ivy League basketball game before the shot clock was introduced.
The Flyers used the NHL's version of "stall ball" or "keep-away."
The reason? Tampa Bay sat back in a 1-3-1 trap and made no attempt to pursue the Flyers when they had the puck in their defensive end.
After the Lightning's 2-1 overtime win, Pronger, the Flyers captain, called Tampa Bay's tactics "embarrassing" to the NHL.
One day later, Pronger had even stronger comments. He suggested that NHL commissioner Gary Bettman should fine teams that sit back and don't go after the puck.
A league spokesman said Bettman would have no comment on the matter, and that "players are entitled to their opinions without rebuttal from the commissioner."
In the first period Wednesday, the Flyers circled in their own end as the Lightning sat back in the neutral zone or at their own blue line.
"What do you want us to do if they're not going to forcecheck?" Pronger asked rhetorically in a conference call from Naples, Fla., where the Flyers started a two-day bonding trip. ". . . If they want to just stand there, why would I want to skate into it? It's asinine to think so."
Pronger noted that Tampa Bay has exciting offensive players, such as Steven Stamkos and Vincent Lecavalier, and that "it's a disservice to them and to the league" to play the trap, which New Jersey used to much success in the past.
Wednesday's game turned off a national TV audience, Pronger said, because it "turned into a stalemate."
It may have been boring at times, but it was effective for Tampa Bay, which held the Flyers to just 15 shots. The Lightning shut down the high-scoring Flyers despite being without two of their best defensemen (Victor Hedman and Mattias Ohlund, who were injured) and using a struggling goalie, Dwayne Roloson.
For the entire first period, the Lightning sat back, waiting for the Flyers to make a move out of their defensive zone. The Flyers defenseman circled, and circled and waited and waited and. . ..
The Flyers were trying to get Tampa Bay to make a move toward their puck-carriers before they started their attack.
Instead, the Lightning just sat back. Like department-store mannequins.
The Flyers waited out the host Lightning, and the fans booed loudly.
Twice, the Flyers were called for defensive-zone faceoffs for not moving the puck forward.
A league official called Toronto for advice during the game, then told the on-ice officials the Flyers had to keep the puck in motion and couldn't sit back in a "four corners" offense.
"We didn't do anything different than we do all the time," Lightning forward Dominic Moore said. ". . .You just stick with your game and don't worry about the rest of it."
Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said "the onus to me comes to the person without the puck to get it back."
Laviolette didn't think the Flyers lost because of the trap, but because "we went to the penalty box too much and had costly turnovers."
Laviolette conceded that trying to penetrate into the Tampa Bay zone "was like throwing a pass into the end zone with 10 defenders on the goal line."
"At the end of the day, we're in the entertainment business, so the league will have to decide if they like it," said center Danny Briere, adding that the fans "lose" when forced to watch that type of game.
Bonding trip. As the Flyers started their bonding trip in Naples, about half the team golfed, while other players sat at the pool or beach, and the coaches went on a fishing trip. They later had a team dinner.
Pronger said the trip gives the players, many of whom are in their first season with the Flyers, a chance to build chemistry and "get a better feel where everybody is coming from."