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.
The first game took place on January 15, 2012, a 2-1 Oilers OT win. The Oilers ran the following lines:
Truthfully, the Oilers were more like a 5D team that night as Teubert played sparingly. LA came back with:
Here’s how things shook out:
So, four pretty clear matchups up front: Horcoff/Kopitar, Gagner/Richardson, O’Marra/Richards and Green/Fraser. The Oiler D/Kings F matchups were pretty clear too. The Oilers crushed the Kings in terms of ES scoring chances (LA had played the night before in Calgary) 16-7. Here’s how they broke down.
Did Horcoff bleed chances? Well, not to the extent that LA’s third line did against Hall/Hemsky/Gagner, who killed that matchup all night long, even if they were facing Scuderi/Doughty. Horcoff’s bleeding chances should also be looked at with a bit of understanding, given that he was going head to head with the Kopitar line with help from Anton Lander, who couldn’t handle fourth line minutes when he was given them and Ryan Jones, who’s basically a twitter profile and a haircut and not much else.
Anyway, the big point for me there is that it worked – Edmonton won the scoring chance battle easily by letting Horcoff’s line lose by a small amount while Hemsky/Hall/Gagner generated chances all night long against the Kings’ third line.
The second game in the series took place on March 30, 2012. The Kings didn’t play the night before unfortunately, and they easily beat the Oilers 4-1, outchancing them at ES 16-9. The lines were a little more scattered too, with it being more pairs of players sticking together and then people cycling through. There was kind of a game within the game here too: the ES chances were 9-3 at the halfway point for LA, with LA taking a 3-1 lead at 6:44 of the second. The second half of the game, the chances were 7-6 for LA. The closest thing to lines for the Oilers was as follows:
LA’s lines were kind of scrambled too. Call it:
Here are the matchups:
This was one of the weaker games I’ve looked at so far, in terms of there being any kind of consistent line matching, which probably has to do with the Oilers chasing the game from two goals down fairly quickly, which presumably resulted in some shuffling of the coaching strategy. You can see from the matchups I’ve highlighted that the lines weren’t all that consistent either – Gagner, in particular seemed to have a lot of different people taking shifts with him. Of his 13.2 minutes of ES TOI, he played more than 2.5 with Hartikainen, Jones, Hemsky, Petrell and Eager. Turning to the chances…
Hey, Gagner got eaten alive! Judging by the chances, Renney found in the first half of the game that Gagner/Hartikainen/Hemsky was getting killed by the Richards line, so he abandoned that line, sending Hemsky to play with Eberle/RNH and giving Smyth/Jones, later Petrell/Jones, a spin with Gagner. If you wonder about how linemate quality (and matchups) can make a difference, that might tell us something; in the first game with the Kings, Gagner/Hemsky/Hall were monsters; in the second, weaker linemates for Gagner and a tougher matchup and it was a bloodbath.
I talked a bit before the season about how I kind of hoped Krueger would go with a top nine of:
Horcoff/Smyth/Veteran RW (or, I suppose, Pajaarvi)
That seems to me to give the Oilers their best chance on any give night, in that Horcoff/Smyth do the really lousy work and waste more of their night in the defensive zone, there’s more responsibility put on the Gagner/Hemsky/Hall line but they’re going to catch some weaker competition from time to time and hopefully have some nights like they had against LA in January and then you’ve got RNY/Yakupov/Eberle, getting the easiest matchups and having the ability to really take advantage of them or, at the very least, less of an ability to get cut open. It’d be an awkward setup to an extent – Krueger’s current lines set up nicely for the PP but it doesn’t really seem undoable to me.
LA’s lines from Colorado:
It’s vaguely amazing how thin even the defending Stanley Cup champions are. Scary top two lines, scary top defensive pairing and then it gets an awful lot thinner. You would think that, if Krueger intends to run a sort of checking line so as to shelter one of the two more offensive lines and give them time against the bottom six forwards, it would be very, very easy to do tonight without screwing around with his rotation of forwards too much – the Kings have two lines that look really threatening and it’s unlikely that there will be two consecutive shifts without one of them on the ice very often. Hopefully we get more than about seven minutes of a competitive game to look for that.Email Tyler Dellow at email@example.com