Friday, April 28, 2017

"Finding ways to win" and analyzing Anaheim line matchups

Oilers forward Zack Kassian fights Ducks Ryan Kesler in Game 1 of Round 2
Image courtesy of Edmonton Journal

"Finding ways to win"  

I've always had difficulty in understanding what that common canned cliche spouted by players in their interviews actually means.  I can't stand cliches.  What is "the way" exactly?

In looking at Game 1 vs. the Ducks, "ways to win" consisted of generally taking advantage of Gibson's weaker goaltending, but even with McDavid not really producing, he still has an incredible effect on the game.

1. McDavid drawing penalties
This put the Oilers on the PP more than once to take advantage of Ducks weak PK.  Many say he's been playing hurt or is suffering from the flu going around the team, but McDavid is still able to skate faster than anyone and draw hooks, and that's mighty valuable.

That counted for 2 goals from Letestu on the left side from a rebound off Gibson.

2. Behind the net goals
On several occasions, Nurse, Sekera and Larsson all saw lanes to the net.  Sekera went behind on left side and tried to slip one off Gibson and it almost went in with Gibson sprawling.  Larsson then tried the same thing on the right side and the puck deflected off of a Ducks d-man and went in, making it the game winning goal.  I believe the Oilers goalie coach Dustin Schwartz saw this weakness in Gibson and instructed the Oilers d-men to "go for it" and they then actually practised this drill.

That counted for 1 goal and almost 2.

3.  Poor line changes
The Oilers used to be bad on this in the season. The OT goal against the Sharks in game 5, they took advantage of their own line change where McDavid went off and Desharnais skated on, snuck inside down the middle to accept a perfect needle pass from Draisiatl and score. Where in Game 1 vs. the Ducks, the Ducks were caught on a bad line change while the Oilers were in the o-zone and Larsson saw an opportunity to pull a Desharnais, slipped into the middle, and again, got a perfect pass from Drai to zing a wrister for a goal.

4.  Shadowing McDavid
This strategy can backfire. It stymies Getzlaf on performing more offense and in taking offensive draws where he has to match with McDavid in draws in the d-zone, and it's proven to free Draisaitl to do this magic, which he most certainly has.  It's a one or the other situation, but the Ducks can't seem to stop both.

Analyzing Anaheim line matchups...
Courtesy of, the Corsi weighting per line/pair is displayed against the competition.
Below, the top 6x6 are the d-pair matchups and the rest are the forwards.

Main match-ups:

Anaheim d-pairs against Oilers d-pairs:
Fowler/Montour pair got beat by Oilers 1st pair (Klefbom/Larsson)
Lindholm/Manson pair got beat by Oilers 2nd pair (Sekera/Russell)
Theodore/Bieksa pair got beat by Oilers 3rd pair (Nurse/Benning)

Anaheim d-pairs against Oilers forward lines:
Fowler/Montour pair got beat by most Oilers lines
Lindholm/Manson pair beat Oilers 1st and 3rd lines
Theodore/Bieksa pair got beat by most Oilers lines

Anaheim forward lines against Oilers d-pairs:
Ducks Getzlaf 1st line got beat by Oilers 2nd pair (Sekera/Russell)
Ducks Kesler 2nd line beat most Oilers d-pairs
Ducks Thompson 3rd line beat Oilers 1st pair (Klefbom/Larsson)
Ducks Vermette 4th line pretty even with Oilers Desharnais 4th line.

Anaheim forward lines against Oilers forward lines:
Ducks Getzlaf 1st line got beat by Oilers Nuge 2nd line.
Ducks Kesler 2nd line pretty even with Oilers McDavid 1st line.
Ducks Thompson 3rd line beat Oilers Letestu 3rd line.
Ducks Vermette 4th line got beat by Oilers 3rd pair (Nurse/Benning)

Oilers beat Ducks in 8 main matchups
Ducks beat Oilers in 4 main matchups
No clear adv. in 2 main matchups.

While it seems Anaheim had more puck possession in the Oilers zone, they didn't have as many grade "A" chances.  These games are decided by slight edges, where the top six of each team usually matches up well against each other, the advantage goes to the teams with an edge on power plays and defensive or bottom six heroes.

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