I haven’t been keeping up with the line match-ups; I have a finite amount of time, and this hobby eats up way too much of it as it is. Still, I thought the game last night was really interesting from a coaching viewpoint, and there were a few things that I could highlight that might otherwise be missed. For starters, let’s look at Edmonton’s even-strength line-up. The number on the right is the average even-strength ice-time of the line.
Penner – Horcoff – Hemsky = 12.2 minutes
Moreau – Pouliot – Cogliano = 11.4 minutes
Strudwick – Brodziak – Stortini = 7 minutes
Reddox – Gagner – Cole = 6.6 minutes
Grebeshkov – Visnovsky = 14.6 minutes
Smid – Staios = 11.5 minutes
Souray – Gilbert = 11.4 minutes
Horcoff Line: Wayne Gretzky matches lines, just like every other coach in the National Hockey League. The extremely effective and underrated tandem of Sauer and Michalek saw two-thirds of the even-strength ice-time against the Horcoff line; both defencemen have done this sort of work for a number of years. Up front, Hanzal, Winnik and Fedoruk were the go-to guys, with Shane Doan’s line being the second choice.
Pouliot Line: The Coyotes coaching staff was much less concerned about these three; all the defensive pairings played against them, with Morris and Jovanovski leading the way. Up front, they saw a fair bit of Shane Doan’s line, with Olli Jokinen being the second choice.
Brodziak Line: Unsurprisingly, nearly half of this line’s playing time came against Phoenix’s bottom pairing. Beyond that, they saw players like Carcillo, Fedoruk and Lisin up front.
Gagner Line: Gretzky showed a surprising amount of respect for this line – although they had some shifts against the Turris line, they also played a fair bit against Michalek/Sauer and the Hanzal line.
Grebeshkov – Visnovsky: Used in offensive situations; I don’t know if Charlie Huddy has always done things this way, but this year he seems extremely interested in playing these guys as five-man units. Visnovsky, for example, saw the most ice-time against the Michalek-Sauer pairing, while his distribution against forwards was surprisingly even. This tandem is clearly supposed to get the offense going from their own end.
Smid – Staios: Used in defensive situations; lots of time against Morris and Jovanovski, so Huddy was tossing these guys over the boards in the defensive zone a lot. Again, their ice-time against the forwards is distributed fairly evenly.
Souray – Gilbert: The all-purpose pairing, with the caveat that Huddy refused to waste them against the Coyotes’ 4th line. Despite the lack of even-strength ice-time, these guys were used in all situations against Phoenix’s top-nine.
- There were a lot of complaints about Craig MacTavish putting his love-child Reddox on the second line, but that is not what happened here. Sam Gagner and Erik Cole saw their even-strength minutes slashed; and given their performance thus far it’s been richly deserved. This was the fourth line last night.
- Pouliot, Moreau and Cogliano were getting the sugar minutes last night; it’s been Cogliano’s gig all season, but Moreau and Pouliot are recent additions. Pouliot’s got a track record of scoring going back to his junior days and may be a good fit on this line; the use of Moreau there seems counter-intuitive and I doubt it continues.
- Charlie Huddy seems more interested in situation when he sends out his defencemen than he is in opponent; this makes a good deal of sense given that some defenders will generate offense while others won’t. At the same time, it makes the guys deployed defensively look awfully bad and the guys used offensively look awfully good. I’m really not convinced that Staios can handle the role he was used in last night.