The Chicago Blackhawks earned a split in the first two games, gained home ice advantage, and now they play a pivotal game three in front of their raucous fans in the famed Madhouse on Madison.
Nope. Not in 2020.
The only changes tonight are the teams switch benches and the Blackhawks get last change. In Edmonton the home team uses the normal visiting bench, while the road team gets the regular Oilers home bench. So tonight the Oilers will be the road team, but sitting on their normal bench.
I don’t think the bench swap makes much of a difference to be honest, and with very little line matching in the first two games, the advantage is minimal.
The most noticeable change will be the jerseys. Edmonton will wear their whites while the Hawks will wear their home red.
Before the playoffs began Dave Tippett said on my radio show that matchups aren’t something coaches chase like they used to years ago.
“There are certain things that you look for in a game, but matchups are interesting,” said Tippett. “Matchups have changed over the years, because just about every team has a line they feel can play against any line on the other team. The defensive matchups come in to play a little bit but matchups can work both ways. You try to exploit something or you try to take something away from the other team. Some of it depends on the flow of the game. If you are down in a game and the other team wants to match a certain line, well you can either leave them off of the ice or you can play them. So there are different scenarios that come into play.
“I really try to make sure our team, our players get what they need. And sometimes I get the matchups I want and sometimes I will forgo the matchup and I bet on my player. I’m just going to bet on him against whoever they match up against him. So when you get into a series, obviously those little matchups come into play more and more. There are matchups, but it’s not like it was 20 years ago or 15 years ago where you had a hard checking line, you had a real grind line that maybe didn’t play much as a fourth line. You’ve got everybody who can matchup against almost anybody now and that’s the way that most teams are built.”
There are expected matchups, but we’ve yet to see either coach push for one that the other tries to counter. If you look at who players played against in the first two games, this rings true.
Duncan Keith played the most minutes (47) overall for the Blackhawks, but at 5×5, he played the fourth most. Connor Murphy played 33:43, Calvin de Haan 32:30, Slater Koekkoek 29:27 and Keith played 29:25. Olli Maata was fifth at 27 minutes and Adam Boqvist (Keith’s partner) played 24 minutes.
Here is a quick look at which centres Keith played against the most:
Jujhar Khaira, 8:26
Connor McDavid, 7:49
Leon Draisaitl, 7:42
Riley Sheahan, 6:28
He faced the Oilers fourth line more than the Oilers first. He was basically the combined amount of time against Khaira and Sheahan as he was against McDavid and Draisaitl. He actually played the most minutes against Zack Kassian (9:13) of any Oilers forward.
Murphy was the matchup Chicago wanted more against McDavid and they had that. Murphy’s most common opponents have been:
Connor McDavid, 14:04
Leon Draisaitl, 10:39
Jujhar Khaira, 5:40
Riley Sheahan, 5:39
Murphy played just over 50% of his time at 5×5 against McDavid. Will Jeremy Colliton work harder for that tonight with last change? Possibly, but how much more?
Darnell Nurse leads the Oilers with 38 minutes at 5×5 followed by his partner Ethan Bear at 35:09.
Here is a breakdown of which centres Nurse faced through two games when the Oilers had last change:
Jonathon Toews, 12:58
Dylan Strome, 10:42
Kirby Dach, 9:06
David Kampf, 6:43
He did face Patrick Kane the most (15:12), as Kane played almost five minutes more against Nurse than his centre Strome did.
Oscar Klefbom has played 29:34 at 5×5 thus far and he is on the Oilers second pairing. Here is his breakdown of opposing centres:
Dylan Strome, 10:13
Jonathon Toews, 7:19
David Kampf, 6:22
Kirby Dach, 5:51
Klefbom played the most against Kane as well at 12:22. The Oilers haven’t wanted one pair specifically against Kane, but have focused on having their top-two pairs out against him. He faced Nurse/Bear for 15 minutes, Klefbom/Larsson for 12 and Russell/Benning for 6:28.
Kane faced the top two pairs in 81% of his 5×5 play, and I suspect it will be similar tonight.
No reason to change a winning lineup. The bottom two lines have yet to be on the ice for a 5×5 goal against. From my spot, the fourth line has been the most consistent through two games.
Drake Caggiula was suspended for game two, but he returns to the lineup tonight. The Hawks need his tenacity as they are not a very physical team.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: McDavid scores a goal for the third consecutive game. The second time he’s done that in his brief playoff career. **Edit. We have learned the 50/50 will top out around $6m total due to tickets, so cancel that OGDP..**. Instead I will add Oilers PP scores two goals.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Ethan Bear scores the first playoff goal by an Oilers defenceman in 1,195 days. (Andrej Sekera scored the last one on April 28th, 2017).
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