If you haven’t actively sought out Edmonton Oilers games the past two seasons, you’ve likely only seen Connor McDavid play twice. In your defense, finding Oilers games is tough unless you have an NHL.tv subscription since the NHL is actively opposed to showing Americans teams that ply their trade in Canada.
Even if you have saw McDavid play last season, things have changed. The Oilers picked up Milan Lucic over the offseason and have played him and McDavid together regularly, which considerably changes the look of the lines, obviously, but the Oilers have struggled to find a second winger to put on the top line full-time.
Lucic has played 67 percent of the time McDavid has been on the ice (5v5 according to hockeyviz.com). That’s a lot, but before we get carried away, keep in mind Joe Thornton has played 90 percent of the time Joe Pavelski has been on the ice this season. It’s a goal for the Oilers, not a requirement.
Still, three of McDavid’s four most frequent lines include the agitating forward. He’s spent the most time with Jordan Eberle and Lucic (178 minutes), 80 minutes with Eberle and Patrick Maroon, 64 minutes with Lucic and Puljujarvi and 55 with Lucic and Leon Draisaitl.
McDavid played with Lucic and Eberle in the Oilers’ 3-2 win over the Coyotes on Tuesday, so assume McLellan will go with that again tonight. That line, while the most frequently deployed, has the worst possession numbers of the aforementioned groupings (52.87 FF%) and its five goals-for is second to the six goals scored by the Lucic-McDavid-Puljujarvi line. The LMP line scored one extra goal in 114 fewer minutes.
I’m no Oilers expert, but a look at Puljujarvi’s stats compared to his ice time leaves me puzzled. He played seven minutes against Arizona on Tuesday on Edmonton’s fourth line; so keep an eye on him tonight.
Finding the right linemates for McDavid shouldn’t be difficult, of course, because finding linemates for one of the best players in the world should never be difficult. Lucic and Eberle are both talented players and offer something a little different to one another and certainly to McDavid. Lucic can get to the front of the net while Eberle gives a great shot. McDavid is a playmaker.
Pete DeBoer isn’t known for line matching, but with the Sharks getting last change I’m curious what forward group will get the most ice time against McDavid. The Captain Line has received the highest percentage of defensive zone starts of existing lines (29.49) and my bet is that will continue tomorrow.
While putting an admittedly slower line out against McDavid makes me a little nervous, I like giving the depth lines a chance to win the game. Playing Lucic with McDavid slows the game down in the offensive zone which shifts things into the Sharks’ favor. That may be all the advantage San Jose needs to end its two-game homestand in first place in the Pacific.
stats from corsica.hockey unless otherwise noted