Oilers coach Knoblauch
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Oilers coach Knoblauch plays last minute mind games with playoff lines

Published May 11, 2024 at 10:50

Heading into game two last night between the Oilers and Canucks, the Oilers had both Leon Draisaitl and Adam Henrique listed as game-time decisions. When coach Knoblauch got the health report, he threw a total curveball at the Canucks and coach Tocchett.

The Canucks may have been half-expecting Leon Draisaitl to be unavailable with an injury last night, but just minutes before the game began, Knoblauch elevated Draisaitl to the first line - giving the Canucks a nightmare to defend.

The surprise line changes in warmup seemed to really free up the Oilers top line to make their game-breaking plays. In game one, the Canucks were extremely effective in limiting chances on net. The Canucks weren't prepared to defend against the Oilers super line, and they were able to pick apart the defence. By every metric, the Oilers top line was totally dominant.

Additionally, Adam Henrique also returned to the lineup after an injury, joining the second line. This swap in the lines proved to be incredibly effective, as it freed up McDavid to contribute on all 4 goals scored in the win.

Leon Draisaitl elevated to first line after sustaining undisclosed injury

In the second period of game one, Draisaitl took a routine cross check to the back from Canucks defenceman Tyler Myers, and was clearly shaken up on the play. He left the game momentarily and was unavailable at practice, where Knoblauch did confirm that Draisaitl has a a day-to-day injury.

Even if Draisaitl isn't at 100% health, Oilers fans know he can play through an injury and still be an elite player, especially when paired with Connor McDavid. As former Oilers analyst Luke Gazdic highlighted in last night's broadcast, the two Oilers superstars have an unreal ability to play off each others' strengths in slowing down and speeding up the game. When McDavid and Draisaitl are together, the top line is unstoppable.

However, we have seen in the past, and even last night, that loading up the super line comes at a great cost to the rest of the forward lineup. Outside of McDavid and Draisaitl's line, the Oilers struggled to keep any momentum going in the Canucks zone - pretty much allowing the Canucks to take breaks while McDavid and Draisaitl are on the bench. If Knoblauch is going to continue to use the Oilers superstars together, the rest of the lineup will need to step up and win their minutes for the team to have success.
May 11   |   190 answers
Oilers coach Knoblauch plays last minute mind games with playoff lines

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