• A Tactical Hockey Fight?

    by  • January 21, 2013 • Uncategorized • 11 Comments

    From Copper and Blue:

    After Ales Hemsky scored the game-tying goal, Ben Eager decided it was in his best interest to pick a fight with Zack Kassian. Not only is this terribly stupid because the Canucks were starting to tire and were really chasing the puck, but it was terribly stupid because Eager never had a chance against Kassian. Kassian landed a number of lefts to Eager’s face, breaking him open quickly, then lost his balance and Eager held on before going to the locker room for sutures.

    The Oilers seem to be planning, at least in the short term, to run two power play units that include four forwards. Last night, Horcoff played with RNH, Eberle and Hall, while Smyth played with Hemsky, Yakupov and Gagner. The downside to this is that it’s pretty clear who your line after the PP is going to be. The first Oiler PP ended at 10:49 of the first. The Belanger line came out at 10:58. The second Oiler PP ended at 1:31 of the second. The Belanger line came out at 1:39. The third Oiler PP ended at 9:07 of the second. The Belanger line came out at 9:17. The fourth Oiler PP ended with Hemsky’s goal at 14:05 and the Belanger line was out for the ensuing faceoff.

    Of course, if I can figure this out, Alain Vigneault can probably figure this out too. Sure enough, the Sedins were out as soon as the first Oilers PP ended, with a shift that went from 10:58 to 12:08 and saw Smid take a penalty about 25 seconds into the shift. The Sedins came out again at 1:39 of the second and played a shift against the Belanger line. They didn’t come out immediately after the third Oiler PP for some reason and Krueger was able to sneak a fourth line shift in before the Sedins returned.

    After the Oilers tied it up though, it was Sedin time again – the faceoff at centre ice had the Sedins lining up against the Oilers fourth line. Curiously, this was the time that Eager decided that he needed to take some retribution from Kassian. Kassian claimed after the game that he was the one looking for the fight, which didn’t really seem to be backed up by the tape. The guys on the broadcast were talking about Eager taking retribution for a hit that Kassian had thrown on Taylor Hall, which seems odd too – that hit was in the second period and, as I’ve shown before, fighting goes way down in the third period of close games, with about 1400 minutes being required per fight in a tie game – it’s basically the playoffs.

    What that fight did do though was prevent the Sedins from getting a shot at Edmonton’s fourth line in the last six minutes of a tied hockey game. When the puck dropped again, they were still on the ice, with Dale Weise replacing Kassian. Belanger and Petrell were gone though, replaced by Hall, Eberle and Nugent-Hopkins. Was this a coincidence? Possibly. It sure worked out well for Edmonton as far as matchups go though. Better that Ben Eager gets his face punched in then the Sedins spend a shift in the Oilers end of the ice.

    Email Tyler Dellow at tyler@mc79hockey.com

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    11 Responses to A Tactical Hockey Fight?

    1. January 21, 2013 at

      I personally thought it was idiotic for Kassian to fight Eager. As I said in my game review, when you see Eager out against the Sedins, you don’t fight him, you let the Sedins make a fool out of him.

      • Ablefish
        January 21, 2013 at

        Meh – sometimes you guys get too moneyball with your reactions to game events. I was at the game, and I was perfectly happy to see a knob like Eager get his clock cleaned. And maybe AV thinks like you, but I can’t help but think that every player on the Canucks bench got a bit of a lift. Crowd needed something to cheer about too – by that point in the game it was becoming clear that we’re in for another stretch where any canuck wins will be nailbiting 1 goal affairs.

    2. PopsTwitTar
      January 21, 2013 at

      A few questions:

      (1) Was Eager lined up v. Kassian after the Hall hit but before the shift with the fight?
      (2) Was there a TV timeout after the goal, but before the faceoff?

      This is a great theory…which I don’t believe to be true. First, I joking question whether Eager or anyone on the Oilers bench was smart enough to figure this out. Secondly, I know teams track matchups all the time…but unless there was a TV timeout, someone from the Oilers bench would have had to recognize the Sedins were out there, make the call for the 4th line to match up, and then get to Eager to tell him to pick the fight. Could it happen? Sure, and you would have a little more time with the excitement of the goal, replays, etc. But id more more likely to believe it actually did happen if there was a TV timeout to give people more time to strategize.

      • Tyler Dellow
        January 21, 2013 at

        1) Yes, I believe he was. There were faceoffs with the two on the ice.

        2) Don’t remember. As far as the necessity of a TV timeout though, as soon as the Oilers get a PP, you know that the Sedin/Belanger shift is coming. Lots of time.

        • Jonathan
          January 21, 2013 at

          Re #2, I don’t believe they ever go to commercial after goal. They wait until next whistle if goal was first whistle after 14, 10, or 6 minute mark

    3. Ryan
      January 21, 2013 at

      Oilers were the visiting team so regardless the Canucks would have an advantage with line matching. Doesn’t much matter if the coach can anticipate who is coming on the ice after a power play, he will be able to visually see it. What is your point with that?

      • Tyler Dellow
        January 21, 2013 at

        My point is in response to the suggestion that the Oilers wouldn’t have had time to figure out that Eager fighting Kassian would be a good play on a couple of different levels – it was pretty obvious what the first post PK matchup was going to be.

    4. Derek
      January 21, 2013 at

      I think you’re seeing things that aren’t there. There’s nothing in Eager’s history to suggest he was this smart. If we something like this again, maybe. But I’ll chalk it up to Eager looking for retribution for the hit on Hall and not doing well at all.

    5. Bruce McCurdy
      January 22, 2013 at

      Belanger and Petrell were gone though, replaced by Hall, Eberle and Nugent-Hopkins. Was this a coincidence? Possibly. It sure worked out well for Edmonton as far as matchups go though.

      Funny, last year the narrative was how the kids got their clocks cleaned on the road, especially against top lines. Now this year it’s more desirable to have them out against the Sedins than defencsive/PK vets like Belanger and Petrell.

      I’m not disagreeing with that take, I’m just interested any time conventional wisdom undergoes a sea change in a short period of time.

      • Tyler Dellow
        January 22, 2013 at

        I’m not sure wanting Petrell/Belanger against guys like the Sedins instead of the kids ever was conventional wisdom. Maybe Belanger early last season before it all came apart for him. Those guys were demonstrably worse than the kids against top six in terms of chances last year though.

        If we get to the point where Horcoff/Smyth are the thinking fan’s third choice against the opposition’s best, then I think there’s been a sea change. I’ve got a post that’ll appear in the morning that touches on this – San Jose at home was great last year for illustrating how the Oilers wanted to match up.

        • Bruce McCurdy
          January 22, 2013 at

          I’ll look forward to it.

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