In no particular order:
*Dennis had the ES scoring chances at 16-11 at ES. Yes, yes, Vancouver’s on the second half of a B2B and doesn’t look all that imposing up front but that’s quite something for an Oilers’ team that’s had trouble with ES play since approximately when Chris Pronger left town.
*One of the great things about a new coach is learning about how he runs the bench. The Oilers’ PK usage was quite something: Smyth/Horcoff followed by Belanger/Petrell, followed by Smyth/Horcoff. Five times. Krueger’s dedication to this scheme was apparent in the third period. Horcoff and Smyth played a 42 second shift that ended at 6:13. Ales Hemsky took a dumb penalty at 6:47. Out came Horcoff/Smyth. They did their little dance with Belanger/Petrell and play 1:15 of that penalty kill. Krueger puts out the RNH/Eberle/Hall line and Hall takes a dumb penalty at 9:12. Out comes Horcoff/Smyth, who do their thing with Belanger/Petrell and play 1:16 of that penalty kill. All told, Horcoff/Smyth played 3.42 minutes out of a 5.8 minute sequence. Not bad for two old guys.
Krueger seems pretty committed to doing things this way. On the Hall PK in that sequence described above, it might have made sense to send Belanger/Petrell out to start. They’d been off the ice since the 8:12 mark, during the Hemsky PK, when they were replaced with Horcoff/Smyth. A second PK that close to a first would also have been a time when you might have seen a third F pairing appear, to prevent Horcoff/Smyth from playing so much in a short span. Nothing doing.
Not a lot of guys hit 50% of their team’s 5v4 TOI on a per game basis over the course of a year. Last year, just six guys did it: Boyd Gordon (PHX), Maxime Talbot (PHI), Philippe Dupuis (TOR), Lauri Korpikoski (PHX), Jay McClement (COL) and someone named Maxime Macenauer in Anaheim. I tend to think Dave Tippett’s a pretty good coach, so I’m glad to see that this is something he clearly thinks is sensible. Given the specific setup of the Oilers, and my general distaste for offensive guys killing penalties, I’d be pretty happy to see some more of this as the season progresses.
*Probably worth paying attention to the Oilers PP zone entries this year. The Hemsky goal was created in the neutral zone and was kind of textbook in terms of a lane being created for Hemsky. The Canucks sent one forward deep and Whitney easily beat him with a pass to Gagner. Here’s Gagner carrying the puck, with Hemsky having looped deep behind and starting to crank it up.
Gagner begins to cut to the middle. Note that the Canucks kind of have a 1-2-1 going on – that’s Burrows in front of Gagner. As Gagner cuts to this left, Burrows shifts his body that way…
And it’s over. At this point, Hemsky’s getting a scoring chance. It’s not really Burrows’ fault; there aren’t many guys in the NHL who could recover at that point. I watched a lot of Shark PPs during the extended break and the Sharks are just exceptional at this sort of thing, creating lanes for a scoring chance. It was exciting to see the Oilers do it.
*Kruger’s awfully comfortable with his fourth line in the defensive zone. There were 20 defensive zone faceoffs at ES last night. Horcoff took one, as did Petrell and Hemsky. RNH took two. Gagner took six. Belanger took nine. Of those, seven were with Petrell and Eager. Petrell’s draw was with Belanger and Eager. Intriguingly, this didn’t result in a ton of faceoffs against the Sedins, who were on for 12/20 – of the 8 defensive zone faceoffs taken by the fourth line proper, just three of them were against the Sedins, which presumably wasn’t a coincidence. I’d guess Krueger was throwing them out for defensive zone faceoffs at times when he figured the Sedins were unlikely to be put on the ice.
In that regard, the timing of the Sedin line against the Belanger line is probably noteworthy. At 4:49 of the first, the Sedins came out to face the Belanger line on an Edmonton defensive zone faceoff. This didn’t happen again until the third period, when it happened at 3:33 and 6:13. The one at 3:33 sure looks like a bit of a coaching screw up to me. The Belanger line had been on the ice for 33 seconds against the Malhotra line. The Canucks took a shot and Dubnyk froze the puck. Out came the Sedins, who hadn’t been on the ice in over two minutes. Tough to know what Krueger expected would happen there.
The 6:13 faceoff seems to have been asking for that Sedin/Belanger matchup even more. It took place right after a TV timeout. Faceoff in the Oilers’ zone, Krueger threw out the Belanger line and out came the Sedins. Again, it’s hard to figure what he thought was going to happen when the Canucks were being presented with a chance to kill the game like that. He was probably lucky not to see the Sedin line come out at 11:29, which was the exact same scenario. This will be something to watch as the season goes on, whether Krueger gets better at protecting his fourth line on the road or whether it seems he’s comfortable running his fourth line against the other team’s best players in the defensive zone.
*Vigneault really liked that matchup with the Sedin line and the Gagner line. All of the defensive zone faceoffs taken by Gagner were against the Sedin line.
*It looks like RNH is going to be sheltered in terms of his exposure to defensive zone faceoffs. Both Belanger and Gagner took defensive zone faceoffs at ES with Eberle/Hall.
*Sam Gagner started his career going 4/7 on the shootout. He’s 7/10 for his last 10. If not for a small 5/30 slump that he endured in between, he’d be one of the all time greats at this. Randomness is random. Outchancing Vancouver by 5 at ES on the road?Email Tyler Dellow at email@example.com