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G5 Game Notes: Who Will Be Missed More, Nurse or Pietrangelo?

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Photo credit:Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Jason Gregor
9 months ago
The “next man up” mentality will be put to the test tonight as both the Edmonton Oilers and Vegas Golden Knights will be without their #1 defender. Darnell Nurse (instigator) and Alex Pietrangelo (slash) will sit out their respective one-game suspensions tonight. Their absence creates a major void for each team and the outcome of tonight’s game could hinge on which team fills the void better.

— Nurse and Pietrangelo lead their teams in TOI/GP in the series.
PLAYERGP5×5/GPPK/GPPP/GPTOI/GP
Darnell Nurse415:583:581:2422:12
Mattias Ekholm415:062:091:0919:36
Cody Ceci414:192:55018:04
Brett Kulak413:481:350:2116:22
Evan Bouchard413:410:074:4319:40
Vincent Desharnais410:162:160:0912:58
Philip Broberg38:070:060:198:46
Nurse leads in 5×5 time on ice/GP as well as PK and total TOI.
— Vegas has split their 5×5 time evenly between their three pairs. Their third pair of Nicolas Hague and Zach Whitecloud have played the most 5×5, albeit not as much against Edmonton’s top players, and they are 5th and 6th in TOI/GP.
PLAYERGP5×5/GPPK/GPPP/GPTOI/GP
Nicolas Hague415:340:270:0616:17
Zach Whitecloud415:072:100:1117:48
Alec Martinez414:402:450:2218:23
Alex Pietrangelo414:343:543:1023:01
Brayden McNabb414:323:010:0618:22
Shea Theodore414:280:103:2219:18
— Pietrangelo’s absence could be felt most on the PK. He’s played the most minutes, and the only other right-shot D on the PK is Whitecloud. Will they just move Hague with Martinez, and have one of them play their off-side, or do they deploy Whitecloud and McNabb as their first PK unit?
Vegas’ PK has struggled at 66.7% in the series, but they have killed off 8-of-9 over the past two games. The PK was starting to gain some traction, and I believe the Oilers PP will attack whichever left shot D is playing the right side.
— Game four was the first game Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl centred their own lines for the entire game. Here’s how Bruce Cassidy deployed his defenders against them.
Playerv. McDavidv. DraisaitlTotal
Pietrangelo6:092:408:49
Martinez4:492:497:38
Theodore1:436:468:29
McNabb2:376:409:17
Hague3:431:014:44
Whitecloud2:371:163:53
Brayden McNabb played the most total minutes against them, while Pietrangelo faced McDavid the most and Theodore faced Draisaitl the most. What is interesting is Whitecloud could be the only right-shot D-man dressed tonight for Vegas. I’m guessing they put in Ben Hutton instead of rookie right-shot defender Brayden Pachal. Whitecloud and Hague play most of their minutes v. the Oilers bottom six, and one of them will be paired with Martinez. If it is Whitecloud, then he will take a significant jump in TOI v. the Oilers top two forwards. Cassidy has last change, but based on the numbers he got the matchup he wanted most of the night with Pietrangelo/Martinez v. McDavid and Theodore/McNabb v. Draisaitl. If he sticks with that it means either Hague or Whitecloud will face McDavid much more tonight.
— I’m curious to see how Dave Manson runs his blueline. Manson showed a lot of confidence in Kulak/Desharnais in the last game. They played more minutes than Ekholm and Bouchard v. Vegas top-two lines with Jack Eichel on one and Mark Stone on the other.
Playerv. Eichelv. StoneTotal
Nurse6:133:049:17
Ceci6:032:368:39
Kulak3:314:127:43
Desharnais3:044:157:19
Ekholm1:104:105:20
Bouchard1:014:105:11
Ekholm, and Bouchard to a lesser extent, had played more minutes v. the top-two lines in the first three games, and I suspect we see that again tonight. The main question is what will the other two pairs look like?
— After a rough game one, Vincent Desharnais has played well. He hasn’t been on for a goal against at 5×5 over the past three games. He needs to continue that tonight. The difference tonight is he could be paired with Philip Broberg and not Brett Kulak.
— Edmonton played game six v. LA on the road last year without Nurse. He was suspended for headbutting Philip Danault. Kulak moved up and played exceptionally well in his place. Kulak played with Ceci at 5×5 and took Nurse’s spot on the top PK unit. Ceci logged 23 minutes that game and played one of his best games of the playoffs, while Kulak played 21:16 and was equally solid. The difference, however, was the Oilers had two veterans in Tyson Barrie and Kris Russell on the third pair. Broberg dressed, but he only played 3:16.
— Will Manson play two rookies in the third pair, or will he keep Kulak with Desharnais and slide Broberg alongside Ceci? I could see him using a few different combinations, depending on the opposition and situation. Through the first four games, Nurse has averaged 18:08/game at 5×5 followed by Ekholm (17:04), Bouchard (16:45), Ceci (16:04), Kulak (14:10), Desharnais (11:20) and Broberg (6:42).
Broberg will see a significant increase in minutes tonight. Depending on how much special teams time there is, I’m not sure Ekholm can play significantly more than he already has at 5×5. I’d be surprised if he isn’t the leader in 5×5 TOI, but Kulak and Broberg will be the ones who play significantly more than they have through the first four games.
— Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored his first goal of the playoffs on Wednesday and the relief on his face, and the joy on the face of his teammates was very noticeable. He had been fighting the puck prior to scoring. I wonder if that kickstarts him and we see him shooting more to score, rather than to just get the puck on net.
— Under the odd stat category. Edmonton’s PP is 55.6% on the road compared to 31.8% at home. Their PK is an ugly 58.8% on the road, but a very good 89.5% at home. They’d love to see the PP success continue tonight but need to be better on the penalty kill.
— Edmonton has scored first in all four games. They have outscored Vegas 10-5 in the first but have been outscored 3-2 in the second and 5-2 in the third (one was an empty net goal against). In games two and four they were excellent in shifts right after a goal. But in games one and three they allowed Vegas to score a goal within less than 90 seconds on three different occasions. They need to be focused and poised after scoring.
— Edmonton has outhit Vegas 175-123 in the series. Eight Vegas players have been hit 10+ times with Pietrangelo (15), Hague (14), Whitecloud and Keegan Kolesar (13), Theodore and Brett Howden (11), and Jonathan Marchessault and Alec Martinez (10). That is 97 hits on eight players including four defenders. Three Oilers have taken double-digit hits in Cody Ceci (15), Zach Hyman (12) and Evander Kane (10).
— Every player on the Oilers has bought into being physical. Their hit leaders are Nick Bjugstad (21), Nurse (17), Kane (15), Klim Kostin (14), Warren Foegele (12), Draisaitl (11), and Hyman and McDavid (8).
— I believe Pietrangelo’s frustration from being hit constantly led to his idiotic and dangerous slash on Draisaitl. Vegas defenders have been hit 72 times in the series and only dished out 23 hits. Meanwhile, the Oilers blueliners have taken 49 hits and delivered 42. Edmonton’s game plan is to hit Vegas defenders as often as possible, and we’ll see how Vegas handles that tonight, especially without Pietrangelo, and likely only one right-shot defender. I’d expect they will dump the puck in the right D-man’s corner as often as possible.
— In the regular season there were two occasions of a player being assessed an instigator in the final five minutes of a game. Both times the league rescinded the automatic one game suspension. Here are the fights.
Tyson Jost vs. Max Domi, October 30, 2022 – Minnesota Wild vs. Chicago Blackhawks (hockeyfights.com)
Domi clearly wasn’t happy with Tyson Jost’s hit on Patrick Kane. I get why Domi was upset with Jost, but Domi went right after him and started punching him while Jost just covered up. Nurse wading in to confront Hague, who was ready and willing, was more of an instigator than Domi? Odd.
Luke Glendening vs. Jacob MacDonald, November 26, 2022 – Dallas Stars vs. Colorado Avalanche (hockeyfights.com)
Glendening chased after MacDonald after his clean hit. He skated from outside the blueline to get MacDonald and dropped the gloves before MacDonald did. The league decided this wasn’t an instigator, but Nurse was. And it was in the playoffs.
I guarantee the league would have rescinded Nurse’s instigator if Pietrangelo wasn’t suspended. This was a clear case of evening things up.

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