Friday, May 05, 2006

Can The Stoll Line Go Toe To Toe With Marleau's Line?

That's the question for these first two games I think. And since the game is still over 50 hours away we may as well start with some speculating. :D

I mean we know that Wilson has run a short bench against the Oilers in the three games that they have played with Thornton in the lineup, though looking at a few random shift charts he used four lines a bit more against most teams. Still, I think we can expect mostly a three line game from him in the first two games of the series, even though they are back to back.

This makes it easier for Huddy to match the D in a way (3 D pairings vs 3 forward lines). And tougher for MacTavish to run tight matchups with the forwards unless he shortens his bench as well.

As the road coach you don't have last change, you can only do so much, you list your priorities and other preferred matchups get sacrificed. And in this case I think (hope) that the item at the top of the page is "Stoll line does not play against Thornton line". And with Thornton playing every third shift roughly, and a few times a game playing every second shift or every fourth shift, then really the only way for MacTavish to avoid the Stoll-Thornton matchup completely is to play them only on shifts immediately after Joe has left the ice. If he is getting double shifts for a stretch then the 4th line gets some "after Joe" shifts as well.

So assuming that this is the priority, then the ball is back in Ron Wilson's court, and presumably he'll opt to play the Marleau line after Joe ... giving him the clean matchup with the Stoll line. I would imagine that he would like that matchup, and I would also guess that he would not be too enamoured with Marleau v Horcoff ... so two birds killed with one stone. Plus the "after Joe" shift usually starts with puck possession for San Jose.

Same goes for the bottom D pairing but to lesser degree I think.


The other possibility is that MacTavish really wants to try and roll four lines over these first two games, to win the war of attrition. I really hope that he doesn't do this, mostly because the Oiler fourth line played to varying degrees of terrible in every game in Round 1. But if he does then I suppose he'll just be matching the D hard and the forward lines loosely, probably just keeping the 4th line away from both Thornton's and Marleau's line and the rest will be a bit of a mishmash.

So with rolling four lines, as terrifying as the inevitable Samsonov-Stoll-Hemsky vs Joe Thornton's Line head-to-heads seem at first blush, maybe it's not THAT bad ... Stoll is a pretty reliable guy even though he hasn't been played in that role much this year, and Samsonov is a bit of a wildcard to me, but should have the game to hold his own, he certainly knows Thornton well enough. Hemsky is the obvious weak link, but he has actually seen much more icetime than most Oilers against Joe Thornton this season, so it's not like he's being thrown completely into the fire. Hopefully he's picked up a few things along the way.

Just rereading that paragraph and hmm, maybe it really is that bad. :( Life would be easier for MacTavish right now if he had Dowd or Reasoner in the fold right now. Depth down the middle at playoff time is a good thing.

I don't know how coherent any of that is, but a starting point for conversation anyways. :-)

The way the D will be run is pretty straightforward I think. Pronger will end up with 2/3rds or so of Thornton's icetime, Staios with most of the rest, and Bergeron will be phaneufed (that's a new verb, it means 'kept away from star players').

Personally, I'd like to see MacTavish be willing to run with a short forward bench, let the Stoll line out after Thornton's shift ends, try to get Horcoff out against Joe, and failing that Peca.
But I have a sneaking suspicion that this is NOT what we will see.


Blogger Steven said...

Great stuff as usual Vic.

I was pretty much asking myself the same questions and it should be interesting to see what MacT does.

I do think however we're going to see 4 lines rolled with Stoll-Hemsky-Samsonov (along with Bergeron and Tarnstrom) avoiding the Thorton matchup. Why? Mainly because our fourth line now consists of Moreau-Murray-Dvorak (Assuming they keep the lines intact).

While I agree the fourth line has been garbage for games
1-4 in the Detroit series I think they weren't too bad the last two cames since Moreau was more healthy and them shifting down Dvorak.

Murray is obviously not an NHL player any more and wouldn't be playing if Pouliot was healthy but I think MacT feels comfortable with him as long as he has Moreau and Dvorak.

I think that's what we will see along with the Hard D-pairing matchups you said.

It also depends on how comfortable MacT is with that Marleau vs S-S-H matchup since the only way he will be able to avoid Thorton will be to play them against Marleau.

All in all interesting stuff and can't wait for sunday!

5/05/2006 5:08 pm  
Anonymous The Rage said...

Maybe the best thing would be to have Moreau-Peca-Pisani against Thorton, Smyth-Horcoff-Hemskey against Marleau, then Samsonov-Stoll-Dvorak? I think we could still play the Samsonov-Stoll-Hemskey line, but only at home when we have last change.

5/05/2006 5:18 pm  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...

Good point on the fourth line, obviously if MacTavish shortens the bench then Dvorak moves up in favour of Winchester. And when he's healthier we'll probably see moreau in favour of Torres on the Peca line unless the Oilers are trailing on the scoreboard.

I suspect that you are right about the way he'll roll in this one. I don't like that though. Dennis' pining for Dowd at the deadline is making more sense to me now.

Having said all that: MacTavish + (too much time to think) = mad shit. :D Probably a strange wrinkle coming up that we aren't expecting.

5/05/2006 5:26 pm  
Anonymous oilswell said...

Love the perfect Prisoner pic Vic; no escaping!

My recollection is that the "goal against" line of Samsononv-Stoll-Hemsky (SSH!) fell into the 1-2-2 against the Wings as more of the default strategy in later games. Maybe MacT will think damage can be limited even if he doesn't try too hard to avoid that matchup. Small sample but FWIW Hemsky was 3 back of Stoll in EV+/- against Thornton.

I've seen some speculation that MacT will pretty much try the same strategy as on the Wings. Me, personally, I'd like to think he's going to adapt quite a bit, much as he did for the Wings by, first of all, starting with a new strategy and then adapting by shifting the lines to get more depth later on. Fun to speculate about the balance in attack. I'm not sure if or just how he'll try get the 4th line time...could see the ol' "play the 4th line to start the game". I suppose Laraque could be in that lineup too (particularly if MacT forgot the 5-2 drubbing ;)), if he decides they're spending too much time in their own zone...could be one of only a few ways to try to expose the few weaknesses in their lineup.

5/06/2006 2:06 am  
Anonymous MikeP said...

oilswell, hope you'll believe me that I wrote my post whingeing about nicknames for lines before reading your comment. :) But if we're coming up with nicks for lines, then I nominate ASS for the "goal against" line. Too bad it wouldn't likely get published.

The more I read you guys, the more I'm convinced that it won't be the first lines that'll make the difference in this series; it'll be the second lines and second-pairing dmen.

5/06/2006 11:43 am  
Blogger Dennis said...

My whole deal with Dowd was if Lowe was really going for it and throwing around draft picks then why not go full bore and pick up a guy for the 4th line that's super dependable and wasn't going to be super expensive. The Oilers knew they were gonna need a 4th line pivot once they threw in Reasoner and then they "addressed" that by picking up Murray.

Regarding line matching MacT was pretty content to go with four lines in G5 at Det but maybe that had more to do with the three and two goal leads more than anything.

Overall I'm confident that the Oilers can win the series. I think the netminding in close to even...maybe a slight edge to Toskola but Rolo played very well for us in the first round as well. I'd give the ST edge to the Oilers because the PP's run about even, though I'd imagine the SJ PP with Joe T is much better than 18%, but SJ's PK doesn't match up to the Oilers. Edm just faced the deadliest PP in the league so facing the Sharks with the man advantage isn't overly daunting. Marleau might get the soft min but he still produces so him plus the other combo gives them three legit scoring chances. It doesn't seem like Bernier was overly productive in the first round so we'll keep an eye on him. Michalek, at least to my eye when I watch Sharks games, seems to be along for the ride on the second line. Though he does kill the Oil it seems.

SJ has the big guns but the Oilers certainly have more balance. If Thornton decides he wants to grab the series by the throat then we're in trouble but hopefully 44 will have a little say in that;)

I think it's nearly a huge advantage for the Oilers when it comes to the defensive corps. I'd take MAB and Bergy over Georges and Carle so that's the 5-6 guys. I really love the way the Oilers top four are playing and we have a 30 min a night guy and they don't.

I don't want to seem too cocky here and I know SJ has HIA, home ice advantage, but the Oilers are a damn fine road team and can win in any building.

I'll take the Oilers in six.

5/06/2006 5:29 pm  
Anonymous lowetide said...

Dowd would have looked a helluva lot better than Rem when Zetterburg got the puck in his zone halfway between the fo circle and the blueline. Z shot off like a rocket while Rem was trying to crank start an Edsel.

Agree on the D being to the Oilers advantage btw Dennis, but I'd give a slight edge to Roloson over SJS G if only because Roloson is unlikely to get a shot this good this late in his career again (unless he has a Johnny Bower kick to his career).

5/06/2006 5:51 pm  
Blogger Steven said...

How much did Dowd go for to Colorado? A 6th or something like that? I've actually been wondering if we would have been better off keeping Reasoner and then picking up MacAmmond. Then we'd have some really solid 4 lines.

I know Sammy has been pretty good but Dennis & Lowetide are right... they should have picked someone up for 4th line center after watching Murray skate as if he's in quicksand the past bunch of games.

Then again maybe they really thought Pouliot was ready and him being injured threw a wrench into their plans.

5/07/2006 12:35 am  
Blogger Dennis said...

Regarding MAP...hard to say if MacT would've let him play over Murray. He is giving Winchester a shot so I guess he isn't averse to using rooks but would he have two in the lineup? MAP wouldn't have a tonne to do though if he was playing with two dependable guys in 18-20 so as long as he didn't get a case of the yips he'd probably be fine.

I think Dowd went for a 4th rounder...certainly not too much.

I finally figured out what I don't like about Samsonov: he doesn't have any kind of a shot and there's no consistent ways that he scores goals.

Someone's gonna overpay for him this year but I hope it isn't us.

5/07/2006 1:25 pm  
Blogger Black Dog Hates Skunks said...

Sammy now has 7 points in 7 games. Granted he set up Hemsky in G6 and helped make the play on Stoll's winner but that's a pretty quiet point per game. A lot of second assists.

Based on their play since he arrived would you rather have him or Smytty because I think that's what we're talking. You can't spend 7-8M on these two guys, I think. You can have one. Which one?

To me, Smytty is the easy choice.

5/08/2006 6:55 am  
Blogger Steven said...

I really think you nailed it on the head with your analogy about Sammy and the hot girl (that was you right?)

When they first made this trade I was jumping for joy because I've always enjoyed watching the guy play and his skills are all world.

But the funny thing is after watching him play every game with the Oilers and the playoffs I really hope they don't resign him for anything more than 3 million (if even that). To me him and Hemsky are almost redundant since they possess similar skill sets and both can't really shoot all that well.

I guess I really wish we could find a skilled player who can shoot and play against other team's top lines (a la Demitra, Palffy, Alfredsson etc) and I don't think Samsonov is that guy. Maybe Hemsky will turn out to be that guy (Here's hoping anyway).

Smytty wins out easily against Samsonov if I'm given the choice

5/08/2006 11:52 am  
Blogger Dennis said...

Yeah 94 in a landslide. I always wanted 12 and 83 together because I thought they'd click but neither guy wants to shot so nothings happening. I still like them together though if only because then we can shield them from the tough least at home.

5/08/2006 7:45 pm  
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