Thursday, April 17, 2008

Impact players and coaches that outsmart themselves

I've been following the Flames playoff series a bit, because like a lot of other Oiler fans around this corner of the internet, I've been drawn into paying closer attention to them by Matt and metrognome.

In game 3, the first on home ice for the Flames, Keenan stuck with the game plan in spite of the terrible start for them on the scoreboard.

Keenan had loaded up his big guns and pointed them at Joe Thornton, and he matched them hard. And it worked.

Jarome Iginla at even strength ...
When you can make Thornton look bad, you're probably a bit good. And we all know that Iginla is all that, with no disrespect intended to the other four Flames with the gig on this night, all excellent 5v5 hockey players.

The only blemish on Iginla's record for the night, EV+/- -2 and no points. Not to worry, shit happens, that worm will turn soon enough, he's Jarome freaking Iginla after all.

But Keenan, for reasons known only to himself, decided to change up the game plan and get Iginla some softer icetime with Huselius in the next one. He promoted Nolan (who still looks to have a lot of game left in him, to my eye anyways) to Iginla's gig from the previous game. See vsJoe EV icetime chart below. Even when Wilson started playing Marleau with Thornton, Keenan barely flinched. Marleau ended up playing about 21 of his 24 EV shifts either with Joe, or the shift immediately after him.

And it didn't go so well. In fact it could easily have gone worse.

That's one of the real benefits of having home ice advantage in a playoff series I think, the coach can screw one up by getting too cute on home ice, and still have an extra chance. And the Flames don't have home ice advantage in this series, and they are in trouble now.


Blogger Jeff J said...

One would think that giving Iggy shifts away from Thornton would improve the individual numbers for *both* players. It doesn't work out that way.

Any thoughts on that, Vic? Do the Flames lose more by not having him skate with Tanguay, Regehr et al than they gain by having him out vs. Marleau rather than Thornton?

4/17/2008 11:57 am  
Blogger Vic Ferrari said...

Yeah, the Huselius/Langkow/Iginla line wasn't any great shakes. Granted they started in their own end a lot and San Jose has a lot of players who can grind it out with possession really well.

I just think, like everyone else, that San Jose has more 'very good NHL forwards' than Calgary. There is no way that Calgary is going to win the depth battle without significant help from the hockey gods methinks.

I also think that
CGY has the better defense, and can build a five man unit that San Jose just can't match, even if they play Thornton, Marleau and Clowe together.

So I can see why Wilson wouldn't want a power vs power matchup and why Keenan would (I suspect we'll see a dogs breakfast in terms of H2H EV icetimes tonight, largely for that reason.

I mean if Keenan can get that matchup there is a good chance that the next shift starts in a good place or with solid possession as well. Hell,
maybe even with a PP.

I mean sometimes that seem to make sense when you're planning don't work worth a damn on the ice. But it this case it worked in G3. Why change for G4?

4/17/2008 12:55 pm  
Blogger MetroGnome said...

Great stuff VIc, thanks. It confirms my own thoughts on the issue as well, which I mentioned in my bitch session after game 4.

This type of thing actually seemed to happen a lot this year with Jarome - Keenan would try to give him cherry minutes on home ice and he'd struggle. Then he'd face tougher match-ups (often on the road) and eat them alive.

4/17/2008 5:20 pm  
Blogger Dennis said...

MAybe I'm just silly but it looks to me that Wilson should throw out Grier's line against Iginla and leave Joe T to eat the soft. I know that allows Keenan to run his bench but maybe you can mix in both lines.

Iginla is a helluva hockey players and when Wilson goes PVP with Joe T, it just doesn't work out.

4/17/2008 9:54 pm  
Blogger Black Dog said...

That's great stuff Vic. Thanks for that.

4/18/2008 7:23 am  

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