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Breaking down Tampa’s 1-3-1 forecheck

November 14, 2011, by

Ever since the Philadelphia Flyers elected not to challenge Tampa Bay’s 1-3-1 forecheck, I’ve been reading a lot of erroneous things about the 1-3-1, neutral zone traps and just hockey tactics in general. The last thing I’d ever want is for misinformation to be percolating into the minds of Rangers fans, so if you have a few minutes, let me take you through a more in-depth look at what exactly the Tampa Bay Lightning are doing and how to beat their formations.

To simply write off the 1-3-1 as this decade’s version of Devil’s hockey is not giving Guy Boucher enough credit. As I said in my hockey system’s post, the 1-3-1 can be both a defensive schematic and an aggressive one. It all depends on where the puck is located in the offensive zone and whether or not the opposition has complete possession.

For instance, in the photo above, which was taken from the recent Flyers/Lightning game, you will notice that the puck is not in deep and the Flyers have clear possession of the puck (the right defensemen). In this instance, the Lightning (circled in blue) do not want to forecheck. Instead they trap the neutral zone and wait for the puck to be brought up ice where they will attempt to turn the puck over.

So how do you beat this scheme? The same way you beat Boston’s 1-4 or the Devils 1-2-2… dump and chase or attack the neutral zone as a unit with short passes, as seen here.

Now in this photo against the Caps the puck is in deep and the Caps d-man doesn’t have clean possession. Tampa reacts and forechecks aggressively in that same 1-3-1 formation. You will notice that there is half a blue circle off to screen right. That is where the Lightning’s right defensemen has pinched in to provide support.

Here Malone wins the battle down low, feeds whoever is at the left circle, who then feeds St. Louis in the slot for an easy goal.

So that’s the 1-3-1 in a nutshell. You can either try to beat it or you can do what Mike Milbury did and walk off the set in protest. Seriously, how does this buffoon still have a job?

Categories : Analysis, Hockey Tactics


  1. Matt J says:

    Tampa may play a 1-3-1 but they don’t really forecheck at all. You saw the same thing in the playoffs last year and Washington got swept because they couldn’t figure it out. If you don’t have one guy forecheck it’s basically the most boring thing to watch ever. I thought post lockout we wouldn’t see these types of systems implemented anymore. The Devils trapped for god knows how many years and it was literally the worst thing I have ever seen considering the skill of all the players they had.

    • Dave says:

      They forecheck if they sense weakness/lack of puck possession. It’s a hybrid trap.

  2. The Suit says:

    Did you not read the post? They will forecheck aggressively at certain times.

    • Matt J says:

      “certain times” they should be forechecking all the time.

      • Chris says:

        What?! No team forechecks all time. Youd be picked apart at will. Stupidity

        • Matt J says:

          ok maybe not all the time but consistently. Hey that’s why I don’t coach/want to coach an NHL team.

      • Dave says:

        That makes no sense man. Teams need to mix it up and keep other coaches guessing. If you do the same thing all the time, coaches will find a way to beat it.

  3. Chris says:

    Great post Dude. It’s nice to see someone posing a remedy rather than just being overly negative…. That said, alot of negatives systems arent helping the league appeal to new fans
    Though that isn’t a new issue either.

  4. bob says:

    I read alot about that game,and the info has been everywhere.Though I didn’t hear the idiot walked off in protest.He should keep walking back to the Isles so we wouldn’t have to worry about them for another 10 years.The Flyers get a delay of game penalty,simple.The defense can posture anyway they want.I don’t understand all the hub-bub.I guess because Laviolette told his player to wait until a forechecker comes to you.Maybe the hockey world finally wants to do something to get more scoring back in the game.

    • The Suit says:

      Yea technically they should have been called for a delay of game. Was a pretty bone headed decision on Peter’s part.

      Milbury is just a terrible representative of hockey.

  5. The Wrage says:

    Mike Milbury = N00b.

  6. Mikeyyyy says:

    Milbury was just angry that he didn’t think of it first.

    1-3-1. Good stuff.

    Be careful or you will be playing like the. Nba.

    They don’t allow zone defense. Man to man or double team. Or you get an illegal defense call.

  7. Dave says:

    What I don’t get is why the coaches are so up in arms about it. Kudos to Boucher for creating a new system. this isn’t the mid-90s Devils who clutched/grabbed in their trap. This is a very skilled team executing a hybrid trap/forecheck strategy.

    • Glen says:

      Why did it take until now for a team to “protest” it? They’ve been doing for over a year. When confronted with a challenge it’s up to the coach to figure out a way to beat it. If they make any rule adjustment to penalize or force Tampa away from the 1-3-1 I will be pissed. So much for originality in the sport.

  8. Scully says:

    If I remember correctly the coach Riley coached Hawks used a 1-3-1 forecheck, but the Bombay coached Ducks employed a flying V to beat them :p

  9. Chris says:

    Great post Suit. 1-3-1 is very exciting to watch when forechecking is involved. very aggressive.

  10. Paul says:

    I believe the reason Boucher is using the 1-3-1 trap is because Wayne Fleming his assistant knows the 1-3-1 inside out as he coached against it many times when he was coaching in Sweden in the early 90’s…i commend them for using it as it is a very difficult system to execute correctly and even tougher to sell to the players…yes it can be very defensive/boring at times but it can also be very effective and exciting as the system involves quick transition and quick counter attacks…coaches are paid to get results..if its entertaining thats a bonus !!.. when Wayne Fleming done a presentation of the 1-3-1 trap in Toronto in 1996 i thought it was great as it looked almost unbeatable…but then he showed how his team beat it and how they practiced to beat it…and it wasn’t just the opposing defenceman carrying the puck up to inside his own blue line and shooting the puck hard off Tampa’s back wall with fwds chasing the puck down….it involved skill..timing..drop passes..chips off the walls and a co-ordinated team effort…maybe some of the NHL coaches moaning about it should get a hold of Waynes presentation from 96 and see how he beat it..through dedicated coaching and creativity.