Oilers vs Ducks - Full Line Blender
Kris Knoblauch brought out the full line blender in practice yesterday. Below are the new look lines for both the forwards and the defenders:
RNH - McDavid - Hyman
Kane - Draisaitl - Perry
Holloway - McLeod - Foegele
Janmark - Ryan - Brown
Nurse - Desharnais
Kulak - Bouchard
Ekholm - Ceci
We are starting to get an understanding of the type of coach Kris Knoblauch is, what he does and doesn't like, and how he reacts to adversity on the roster. Edmonton just won 16 straight games. Their first loss came a couple days ago against the Golden Knights and while it was a loss, the team overall still played a very strong game and had Adin Hill not been brilliant, Edmonton may have walked away with at least a point.
Despite all of that, Knoblauch has shuffled up everything...why? One thing we are learning about Knoblauch is he hates complacency. After a couple of stale games, earlier on the win streak we saw Knoblauch shuffle up the forward lines for this reason. The lines were reverted after that. I expect this is a similar scenario. Knoblauch obviously does not want to see his team go on any form of losing streak and shuffles his lines to try and spark something new right away.
Two lines remain the same here; the McDavid-RNH-Hyman line, and the fourth line. There should be no surprises on either fact here. That top line remains one of the most productive lines in hockey and the fourth line has players right where they should be. The only change I would make to that fourth line is to get Gagner playing again as he has been one of the few consistent productive players on that line.
The second line of Kane-Draisaitl-Perry is interesting and not in a particularly good way for me. Kane has played a bit better defensively but still is a slower player and Perry is also no spring chicken. That puts a ton of effort solely on Draisaitl to be the player to bring up the puck. If an opponent double teams him I don't know how well that line can generate offense.
On the other side I like putting Holloway back with McLeod and Foegele. Foegele was producing well for a time next to Draisaitl but that production has slipped. Realistically, Foegele is now in the spot he should be as a third line winger. McLeod and Holloway have been creating a ton of chances and came close a few times against Vegas. I think this line buries one against Anaheim tonight.
Now for the defense.
In my last blog I wrote that the Oilers should see if Desharnais can handle an increased role on the team with Darnell Nurse and Knoblauch read my blog and agreed with me. We also have Ceci paired with Ekholm and Bouchard next to Brett Kulak.
While I don't like Knoblauch splitting up one of the best possession duos in the NHL right now in Bouchard and Ekholm I am still intrigued to see if any chemistry forms in these pairs. More specifically, I am curious as to the ice-time and zone starts that each of these lines gets. Long term I would rather see Ekholm and Bouchard together but I have no issue getting some players better acquainted with each other, particularly if an injury occurs and lines need to get shuffled anyway.
One thing is definitely clear from this new setup. The Oilers biggest need right now is another top six forward to play in the spot that Perry currently occupies. How Ken Holland achieves that will be the storyline to follow leading up to trade deadline.
Thanks for reading!