The Oilers got their trips to Phoenix out of the way fairly early on last year, playing there on November 5 and December 15, 2011. Both games saw 4-2 Coyote wins, although the Oilers acquitted themselves an awful lot better at ES the first time around.
*So Dave Tippett’s a bit of a line matcher. The first Oilers/Coyotes game last year is probably the most consistent matchups I’ve see so far, with the matchups being so consistent that it appeared as if defence pairs were being matched up against each other, which seems awfully unlikley.
*Tippett is a power versus power guy, at least with the Oilers last year. In both games, he matched up his best two offensive lines against the Oilers’ best two offensive lines. He juggles his lines a bit but generally seemed happy to run the Doan line and the Hanzal/Vrbata/Boedker line at the Richards and Kopitar lines against Los Angeles the other night. I’d guess that the Doan line sees RNH and that Vrbata and Boedker go at the Gagner line.
*The defence pairing matchups for Phoenix are a bit harder to fathom. The Schlemko-Klesla pairing was aggressively matched against Hall/Eberle/RNH in the first game. Schlemko isn’t really an established NHLer and it seems odd to run him against a decent offensive line, although that was early in the year. The Coyotes were protecting a lead for most of this game, scoring at the 4:44 mark of the first and aggressively protecting their lead. The Ekman-Larsson/Aucoin pairing was matched with Smyth/Belanger/Jones, a line that doesn’t really seem all that frightening offensively.
*The lineup for Phoenix last game was as follows:
That’s an awfully thin looking lineup for Phoenix – the loss of Martin Hanzal hurts them a lot, I think. Tippett tends to fiddle with his lines during the game – the bottom line and Sullivan played significantly fewer ES minutes in their last game.
You have to wonder what happens to the Coyotes if they’re just not very good. Don Maloney’s done a wonderful job there, as has Dave Tippett but they’ve been kind of dependent on hitting on an FA signing or two every year. If Mike Smith and Ray Whitney were what you usually get for the money they spent on them last year, Phoenix doesn’t come close to the playoffs. If hardly anyone comes when the team’s coming off a competitive year and tickets are basically free – the Coyotes have failed to draw more than 8,600 people in two of their four games this year – what happens when the team’s in a bad year? Will they pay people to come?
*It bears mentioning that Michalek would have looked really good in Edmonton. It’ll be interesting to see if any prospect defenceman who’s not with the Oilers currently is a better NHL defenceman than him by 2014-15, the last year of his contract. There was a Kevin Lowe quote I’ll get into at some point about how Chicago got into trouble because they signed a bunch of guys, which isn’t entirely true, but he wouldn’t be Kevin Lowe if he didn’t view whatever happened in one instance as creating an absolute law.
*We got our first look at how Krueger will dole out the ES ice time with a lead in the third period against Colorado. It was very, very equitable. Hall and RNH both took a two minute shift, which cranked up their ice time. If not for that, the Oilers might have ended up with 11 guys north of four minutes of ES TOI. For comparison’s sake, I grabbed four games from last year when they led in the third period at home and the third played out with few penalties.
It really is sort of astonishing that Gagner and Paajarvi played 1.05 and 1.40 ES minutes respectively one night and, three days later, led the team in third period ES TOI with 6.92 and 7.20 minutes in a very similar situation. With the exception of the Colorado game, which was another three goal win, it looks like Krueger spread the TOI a bit more in the most recent game. Hopefully we’ll get to see him play out a closer game successfully soon.
*I kind of went all in on the “Eberle’s not likely to be a consistent 70 point guy because his shooting percentage is going to regress” argument last summer and, after six games, I think I can claim a preliminary victory: he’s only shooting 13.6%, down from last year’s 18.9%. Victory! Unfortunately for me, he’s somehow turned into a shot generating machine, with 22 so far in five games. He’s taken 15 at ES, 6 on the PP and 1 SH, for rates of 11.8 (ES) and 13.7 (PP). He took 12.5 shots/60 on the PP last year, so that doesn’t seem outlandish to me. He took just 7.0 5v5 S/60 though. so I’d guess that’s coming down. He’s taking significantly more shots per game right now than he was taking in OKC; I doubt that what we’re seeing is real from him.
*The RNH and Gagner lines have this odd sort of ying and yang thing going on where the RNH line has looked better at ES but the Gagner line has looked more dangerous on the PP and, more importantly, generating a pile of shots. Hemsky/Gagner/Yakupov are generating something like 57 S/60 at 5v4 just between the three of them, which is incredible. They look like they’re full value for it too – there are just too many options on that PP unit, too many places for the puck to go. I wonder how many team would take them as their first unit? Half the NHL? More?
There was a cool scene in Oil Change where Hemsky was talking to Gagner about how he and Krejci would go up the ice in the Czech Republic, followed by a shot of a zone entry that’s very similar to the one I was talking about from Vancouver. Watch for it during the game on the PP – Gagner does his cut through the defensive zone first, with Hemsky about ten feet behind him and away they go.
November 5, 2011: Phoenix 4 Edmonton 2
December 15, 2011
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