Taken individually, the aspects of Lightning coach Guy Boucher's 1-3-1 system are not particularly radical, though sending two defensemen into the corners after puck carriers certainly isn't the norm. But together, the system, predicated on puck possession and a quick-strike offense, clearly is a departure from the defensive neutral-zone trap that proliferates in the league. Here is a quick primer on what to look for on the ice:
Formation: At times, especially when the opposition is slow setting up its defensive-zone breakout, the Lightning's 1-3-1 formation is clearly visible, with a forward in front, three players across the neutral zone, including a defenseman, and another defenseman trailing in the defensive zone.
Moving the puck: Many teams use defenseman-to-defenseman passes in the defensive zone to set up offensive breakouts. Boucher wants the puck in the hands of his skilled forwards as soon as possible so they can "do their magic," as he says. He also wants the attack to be fast, with the defense joining when it is safe.
Power play: This is Boucher's baby, and given the firepower he has to work with — the first unit is Vinny Lecavalier, Steven Stamkos, Marty St. Louis, Simon Gagne and Pavel Kubina — it could be formidable. Motion is the key. Lecavalier might start at the point but end up in a faceoff circle for a shot. Kubina might be alone on the blue line with his four teammates across the offensive zone. St. Louis could be at the point or the side wall. Gagne seems most comfortable at the side of the net, and Stamkos almost always will be in his shooting position in the left faceoff circle.
Defensive zone coverages: Keep an eye on the defensemen, who, given certain situations, are encouraged to pair up and follow puck carriers into the corners to try to stifle the attack and steal the puck. It's risk and reward; the maneuver counts on the forwards to cover areas vacated by the blue-liners. We saw clearly in a preseason game against the Blackhawks what happens if that doesn't happen. Chicago's Patrick Sharp was all alone in the front of the net for an easy goal.