January 25 2012 09:35AM
Either Ron Wilson matches lines or Dion Phaneuf just REALLY likes playing against John Tavares
The Leafs home and home sweep of the New York Islanders was important for two reasons. First, the Leafs picked up four crucial points in a tight playoff race to keep pace with three other teams at 55 points. Second, it gives us an opportunity to test Ron Wilson’s claim that he does not match lines.
The Leafs iced the same line-up against the same opponent on two consecutive nights, first at home and then on the road. If Ron Wilson does not match lines, we should see some differences in the Head to Head Time On Ice Chart and Shift Charts. Without the benefit of last change in the second game, we should expect to see little consistency in the ice time of players matching up against the Islanders top line time in the past two games.
Home Game Monday Night
- Dion Phaneuf was on the ice for 16 minutes of Tavares' 21:21 of Even-Strength Time on Ice.
- The line of Grabovski-Kulemin-Crabb saw about 12 minutes against Tavares.
- Carl Gunnarsson was the second highest defenseman with over 10 minutes of his ES time against Tavares.
- No other Leaf was on the ice for more than 6 minutes against Tavares.
It is pretty clear that at ES Ron Wilson was making sure that Phaneuf-Gunnarsson and the Kulemin-Grabovski-Crabb line were on the ice against Tavares as often as possible.
Away Game Tuesday Night
- Last night on Long Island was a different story. While Ron Wilson still tried to get the same match-up, losing the benefit of the last change reduced the amount of time he was able to get his desired unit out.
- Once again Tavares played about 21 minutes at ES. Dion Phanuef was only on the ice for 13 of those minutes, three less than the night before. As he had done an effective job against Tavares the night before it is unlikely that Wilson simply played him less. What happened was that the Islanders were able to use the last change to get Tavares on the ice when Phaneuf and Gunnarsson were on the bench.
- Once again Wilson used the line of Kulemin-Grabovski-Crabb against Tavares at evens. However they only saw about 8.5 minutes against his line.
- Gardiner and Schenn were the only other Leafs to see over 5 minutes of ice time against JT.
- The most telling stat is that on Monday night in Toronto there were 7 Leafs who saw less than 3 minutes of ES ice-time against Tavares, last night there was only 1, Cody Franson.
While Ron Wilson may claim to not match lines, these past two games against the Islanders make it very clear that he does.
Below are the various charts I used to draw my conclusions. Take a look for yourself, what stands out to you?
Are you actually surprised to learn that Wilson agressively matches lines?