logo

Home Ice Advantage and the Oilers’ Optimal Line Combinations

alt
Photo credit:© Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Tyler Yaremchuk
14 days ago
The final few weeks of the regular season for the Edmonton Oilers are all about two things: making sure you’re playing your best hockey leading into the regular season and locking up home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
Let’s start with the latter. They’re currently three points up on the Los Angeles Kings with a game in hand and a massive head-to-head matchup looming this evening. A win tonight will almost all but lock it up when you consider how few games are left in the regular season and just how consistent the Oilers have been over the last four months.
Home ice advantage is important for the usual list of reasons, but for the Oilers, another reason locking up the top spot in the division is important is that the Oilers end the season on the road. 
They will fly out to Arizona on April 16th, play the Coyotes on the 17th, and then head to Colorado to end their regular season against the Avalanche on the 18th. 
With the playoffs scheduled to begin on April 20th and the Oilers first game likely going on April 21st, I think it would be very beneficial to the Oilers to have home ice so that they could come home after their game in Colorado and actually have a few days to rest and practice on home ice before their first-round series.
Heading out on the road on the 16th, knowing that you need to go straight to Los Angeles, would result in a pretty long road trip to start the playoffs. 
Home ice is important for more than just having a potential game seven on home ice. It’s crucial to the Oilers getting off on the right foot for what will hopefully be a long playoff run.

PEAKING AT THE RIGHT TIME

Mar 19, 2024; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; The Edmonton Oilers celebrate a goal scored by forward Adam Henrique (19) during the second period against the Montreal Canadiens at Rogers Place.
When you follow a team as closely as we all follow the Oilers, you really seem to live and die by every win and loss. It’s cliche, but the season really is a rollercoaster.
As of late, the Oilers have not been playing their best hockey. They got smoked on Saturday night against the Maple Leafs, blew a 3-1 lead to the Ottawa Senators on Sunday, and then wrapped up their road trip in Winnipeg where they blew another 3-1 lead in the third period before Zach Hyman saved them with an OT winner.
The Oilers are currently 8-3-2 in the month of March, which is very good when you consider that they had some tough matchups in there. Of course, losing games to the likes of Columbus, Ottawa, and Buffalo really sting in the moment and make the month feel less successful than it actually is. Again, when you watch every second of every game, those tough nights tend to stick with you a little bit longer than the good nights.
Peaking at the right time is very important and ending the regular season playing their best hockey is definitely something to watch for. At the same time, the Oilers have been the best team in the league since Kris Knoblauch took over and it’s not even particularly close.
They lead the league with a .723 points percentage and second place is the Nashville Predators at a .690. That is a significant gap and if you’re looking for another gap that size in the standings, you need to go all the way down to the gap between the Pittsburgh Penguins (.500) and Ottawa Senators (.466) at 25th and 26th respectively. 
The Oilers have consistently been the best team in the league for a long time now, 56 games to be exact, and that’s no small feat.

THE LINE COMBOS

There has been a lot of talk about what the Oilers’ optimal forward lines should be once the playoffs roll around. Since their 16-game winning streak ended, we really haven’t seen a consistent run of the same forward lineup for more than three games. 
They need to be faster in their bottom six and they need to be more difficult to match up against on the road. Those are the two things that I believe Kris Knoblauch should focus on when putting together his lineup for night one of the playoffs, regardless of where the game is being played.
On home ice this season, the Oilers are scoring 4.00 goals per game, second only to the Colorado Avalanche. On the road, that number craters down to 3.17, 12th in the league.
One thing that I absolutely want to see in the night one roster is Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl on separate lines. Here are some 5v5 numbers courtesy of Natural Stat-Trick
With both McDavid and Draisaitl on the ice: 64% of the goals and 58.9% of the shot attempts
Without McDavid and Draisaitl on the ice: 47.5% of the goals and 52.7& of the shot attempts
In short: they dominate with McDavid and Draisaitl on the ice together and get outscored with them off the ice.
The line of Nugent-Hopkins-McDavid-Hyman: 62.6% of the goals and 62.1% of the shot attempts
Draisaitl on the ice without McDavid: 56.1% of the goals and 52.2% of the shots
The point I’m making here is that when you go with McDavid and Draisaitl together, you get one supernova line and the rest of the forward group struggles to outscore the other team.
When you go with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins on the top line, you get a top line that is just as dominant and you have a line with Leon Draisaitl on it that can still outscore the other team. It’s a no-brainer for me.
The other must when it comes to the Oilers’ eventual night one lineup for the playoffs is that it should absolutely include Dylan Holloway, but we can have that conversation another time.

PRESENTED BY SNOW VALLEY AERIAL PARK

Snow Valley Aerial Park is located inside Rainbow Valley Campground.  It has a 15 meter high rope aerial trekking tower with over 100 challenges on three levels.  It was Canada’s first tower of it’s kind back in 2017 and since then we’ve added Whitemud Creek Mining company, Snow Valley Target and Mini Golf and Creekside Eats!  18 holes of Mini Golf debuts this season and is sure to provide as much family fun as the other attractions have up until now.  Snow Valley Aerial Park runs May 31 to September 30.

Check out these posts...