Tomorrow night the Oilers will be playing the San Jose Sharks in Edmonton, and I thought it would be fun to take a closer look at the Sharks' recent performance. To do so, I decided to track scoring chances for the Sharks' game last night against the Colorado Avalanche so that I could see for myself the style of game they were playing, who was successful and why. After the jump, I'll take a look at those chances, and talk a bit more about what the Oilers can probably expect from the Sharks tomorrow night.
For those who'd like a definition: a scoring chance is defined as a clear play directed toward the opposing net from a dangerous scoring area - loosely defined as the top of the circle in and inside the faceoff dots, though sometimes slightly more generous than that depending on the amount of immediately-preceding puck movement or screens in front of the net. Blocked shots are generally not included but missed shots are. A player is awarded a scoring chance anytime he is on the ice and someone from either team has a chance to score. He is awarded a "chance for" if someone on his team has a chance to score and a "chance against" if the opposing team has a chance to score. And, of course, a big thanks to Vic Ferrari for making the whole damn thing possible with his awesome scripts.
Before I present the chart, I just wanted to alert readers that I've added the new "situation" column. The "situation" (and please suggest a better name if you can think of one) refers to whether the chance was created by Zone Pressure or if it came in Transition. Lastly, any chance that resulted in a goal is in bold.
|S.J||3||1:12||T - EN
|COL||3||0:41||ZP - EN
|Period||Totals||EV||PP||5v3 PP||SH||5v3 SH|
This game didn't start well at all for the Sharks. After losing their last two games to the Hurricanes and Thrashers, I got to see why throughout the first period. The Avalanche scored towards the end of the period and kept pouring on the pressure, but before the end of the period, the Sharks got a goal from their fourth line. But Todd McLellan didn't think that the momentum had shifted, so he made some changes to his lineup and strategy to start the second period. At the start of the game, the forward lines looked like this:
Setoguchi - Thornton - Marleau
Heatley - Couture - Clowe
McGinn - Pavelski - Mitchell
Mayers - Nichol - McCarthy
Now, McLellan had made an effort in this game to protect his bottom pairing of Jason Demers and Kent Huskins from the top two Avalanche lines, and relied on his other four defenders - especially the top pairing of Douglas Murray and Dan Boyle - to take on these more difficult assignments. At the same time, both coaches seemed content to go power v. power in the first period with Thornton up against Paul Stastny, and then Joe Sacco looked for some nice matchups for Matt Duchene's line. As it turns out, Thornton and co. weren't very effective in the first period with all three forwards going +1 -4 at EV, while the defense pairing of Murray and Boyle were both +1 -6. Worse yet, Couture (+0 -4), Heatley (+0 -4) and Clowe (+0 -3) were getting pasted by Duchene and some of Colorado's lesser lights. Clearly, something needed to change. So after the intermission, McClellan came back with these lines:
Heatley - Thornton - Marleau
Setoguchi - Pavelski - Clowe
McGinn - Couture - Mitchell
Mayers - Nichol - McCarthy
These groupings ended up being much more successful, particularly the third line which was able to run roughshod over the bottom six of the Avalanche and the revamped top line which was able to hold its own against Stastny. I'm not sure if those are the combinations the Oilers will see tomorrow night, but I'd have to think after the struggles of the last few games that it will be awfully tempting to run with something that actually worked well.
It will be interesting to see whether or not Todd McClellan aggressively pursues any kind of match-up in tomorrow night's game. Against the Avalanche, he was content to try to protect his fourth line and bottom pairing, and that should be pretty easy to do given the predictability of the Oilers' bench. In fact, I wouldn't be at all surprised to see McLellan roll his lines in conjunction with Renney thinking that his top line bests the Oilers' top group, his seconds best their seconds, and his thirds best their thirds. If that's the case, there's really no need to get fancy and try to abuse some of the kids with Thornton, although the top line may well get an extra shift here and there.