• San Jose @ Edmonton: 2011-12 Line Matching

    by  • January 22, 2013 • Uncategorized • 1 Comment

    At least until we get a hang of how Ralph Krueger handles his bench, I’m going to try and run posts before the Oilers play each team home and away, to get a sense of how the lines were matched last year and to provide a sense of how the roles are changing under Krueger. The tables below illustrate how the Oilers most common lines and defence pairings matched up to the most common lines and defence pairings of the opposition in their home or road games last year, whichever is applicable.

    The data is presented as a percentage of expected ice time, assuming that each player is expected to play face opposing players in the same proportion as their proportion of the ES ice time. If, for example, Shawn Horcoff played 10 minutes at ES against an opposition that played L1 for 15 minutes, L2 for 10 minutes, L3 for 10 minutes and L4 for 5 minutes, in the absence of line matching, we would expect him to play 37.5% of his time against L1, 25% against L2, 25% against L3 and 12.5% against L4. I would then divide Horcoff’s actual percentage of time against those lines to generate the tables. So, for example, if Horcoff actually played 50% of his time against L1, I would divide 50%/37.5%, which produces 133%. The further that number is from 100%, the more extreme the line matching has been.

    I didn’t start to play hockey until I was nine but my little sister started when she was five or six. At that age, they would let the players play for two minutes or so and then sound the buzzer and stop the clock for a change. If there had been matchup charts then, I imagine that they would have looked an awful lot like the Oilers-Sharks charts for games played at Rexall last year.

    The first game at Rexall took place on January 23, 2012. The Oilers had the following lineup:

    Horcoff-Hemsky-Hartikainen
    Gagner-Hall-Eberle
    Lander-Pajaarvi-Smyth
    Belanger-Petrell-Jones

    Smid-Petry
    Peckham-Potter
    Sutton-Chorney

    The Sharks went with these lines and pairings:

    Thornton-Pavelski-Desjardins
    Marleau-Couture-Ferriero
    Handzus-Mitchell-McGinn
    Murray-McCarthy-Winchester

    Murray-Burns
    Boyle-Vlasic
    Demers-White

    Here’s the chart (just open the image with a right click to see it full size);

    It’s as if everyone was just fine with certain matchups taking place. I don’t know that you’ll find much cleaner matchups than that, outside of six year old girl hockey. Of particular note to me is Horcoff going head to head with Thornton and the Kid Line against Marleau.

    The second Sharks/Oilers game took place on March 12, 2012. The lines were as follows:

    RNH-Eberle-Hall
    Gagner-Hemsky-Omark
    Horcoff-Smyth-Petrell
    Belanger-Eager-Jones

    Whitney-Schultz
    Smid-Petry
    Sutton-Potter

    Thornton-Pavelski-Couture
    Marleau-Clowe-Winnik
    Moore-Mitchell-Wingels
    Desjardins-Ferriero-Galiardi

    Boyle-Braun
    Burns-Vlasic
    Demers-Murray

    This game is noteworthy because the Kid Line was getting big ES minutes at this point. In the first game, Horcoff was still carrying a lot of the ES minutes and RNH was hurt. In the second game, RNH played 19.4 ES minutes to 14.2 ES minutes for Horcoff. Some things didn’t change though:

    This game’s a little more helpful for our purposes, because there’s a skeleton there of how the Oilers are likely to line up tomorrow – replace Omark with Nail Yakupov and Petrell with Hartikainen. The matchup is pretty clean – despite being the third line in terms of TOI, the Horcoff/Smyth/Petrell line spent the night playing against Joe Thornton.

    The Sharks look to have run the following lines in Calgary:

    Pavelski-Marleau-Thornton
    Couture-Havlat-Clowe
    Handzus-Galiardi-Wingels
    Desjardins-Burish-McLaren

    We should know about ten minutes into the first period whether or not Krueger intends to use the Horcoff line against the other team’s best when he gets the opportunity (which Alain Vigneault, rather than Krueger, seemed to move away from in Vancouver) or whether he intends for the Kid Line to take on a harder minutes role than they did last year. I’m hopeful that, initially, he goes with the Horcoff line against Thornton so that the Oilers can get a sense as to whether or not the Smyth/Horcoff pairing can still go up against the best without getting killed. If they can, it gives the Oilers some decent matchups at home.

    The defence is a bit less interesting; I’d guess that Petry/Smid are going to sit on that Thornton line tonight and pretty much be matched exclusively against them. The Sharks, unlike the Canucks at the moment, have a second line that looks like a threat; one wonders if the Schultz2 pairing will be matched a little more aggressively against them, with Whitney/Potter having their ice time cut back a bit.

    Email Tyler Dellow at tyler@mc79hockey.com

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    One Response to San Jose @ Edmonton: 2011-12 Line Matching

    1. January 22, 2013 at

      A thing I noticed about line matching is (and it may a completely uninteresting thing to anybody but me), but coaches who don’t just roll their lines will either zone match certain lines and line match other lines.

      Often, coaches match d-men to opposing forwards but won’t get anal about matching lines unless somebody gets gored. I think a good way of controling for that would be to see up to which point late-game score effect can drive a player’s qualcomp/zone starts. I know Halpern under Jacques Martin had a high qualcomp-score and low ZS %, but it was quite significantly driven by him taking lots of shifts in the 3rd period with Plekanec and eventualluy moving on Plek’s RW for good.

      Inversely, a guy like Gomez had his OZone% boosted by the fact that Martin would send him out on the ice almost every other shift when the team trailed in the 3rd.

      Maybe some coaches are highly proeficient in line matching (I know Vic did some fascinating stuff about Hitchcock and guys like Krueger and Vigneault looks like they pay a lot of attention to that), but sometimes they just don’t bother. Sometimes, both coaches are content to go power vs power with forwards and have their D-Men run after a given line.

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