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Does Tampa Bay Lightning's passive-aggressive approach to Bruins stop, ignite enforcer debate?

So, does the Lightning need an enforcer? It is a long-standing debate but one that perhaps should get another airing given the way the Eastern Conference final has begun.

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.

That is not by accident. General manager Steve Yzerman to a certain degree is following the Red Wings model of a team that dominates with skill and speed. Coach Guy Boucher doesn't buy into the enforcer thing, either, rather he is a big believer in team toughness.

And in today's game it is difficult to find a terrific fighter who can give you the necessary minutes in the first place. I would think that model is even tougher for the Lightning, given the way the team plays and that Boucher likes to go with 11 forwards making each position that much more important to the entire team structure and system.

Still, there is the theory Lightning players such as Marty St. Louis and Steven Stamkos would be better protected during a long regular season when stakes aren't as high and penalties taken for intimidation might not have the same consequences as they do in the cauldron of the postseason.

I've said several times on chats, I'll never look away from a good scrap, but the Lightning's success without a true enforcer shows it can be done. Just think it is an interesting debate.

Posted by Damian Cristodero at 10:22:52 am on May 16, 2011