Edmonton Oilers coach demotes veteran d-man Ceci, shuffles lines, but is it enough to beat Florida Panthers?

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Edmonton Oilers coach Kris Knoblauch is at it again, making another bold roster move.

This in from Daniel Nugent-Bowman of The Athletic from the Edmonton Oilers practice in Florida today, news that Oilers d-man Cody Ceci has been demoted out of the top three pairings.

Oilers lines and pairings at morning skate for Game 2 of the SCF:

RNH-McDavid-Hyman

Henrique-Draisaitl-Holloway

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Foegele-McLeod-Perry 

Janmark-Carrick-Brown

Ekholm-Bouchard

Nurse-Desharnais

Kulak-Broberg

(Kemp-Ceci)

My take

1. Hmm. Knoblauch is evidently moving out Cody Ceci in favour of Vincent Desharnais, but as much as the Nurse-Ceci pairing has been caved in on goals for and against in the playoffs (five goals for, 14 against), the Nurse-Desharnais pairing has been weaker (two goals for, eight against).

Being paired up with Darnell Nurse has been the common denominator in the struggles of other d-men. The pressure is on the veteran d-man to turn his game around in rapid fashion, and at least play a much safer and sounder game on defence, even in limited minutes.

Ceci has hung in there when he’s not been paired with Nurse, the same going with Desharnais. Can the Nurse-Desharnais pairing reverse the trend of getting caved in on the scoreboard. The pairing are NOT getting out-shot when they’re on the ice together, so there’s some hope. I suspect they will also get limited minutes, as the Evan Bouchard and Mattias Ekholm pairing have been outstanding, and the Philip Broberg and Brett Kulak pairing can also defend and move the puck well.

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2. The third line is a problem for the Oilers, as each one of Ryan McLeod, Warren Foegele and Corey Perry have seen significant drops in their two-way performance comparing the regular season to the playoffs. Perry especially seems slow on the ice; I’m not sure why Derek Ryan was slotted in.

Indeed, a number of Oilers players have been struggling to replicate the two-way form and attacking edge they had in the regular season. This includes almost every centre on the team, whose attacking numbers are down, with Draisaitl also leaking Grade A shots against at a higher rate in the playoffs. On the wing, no player has seen a bigger drop off in his play than Warren Foegele, who is a shadow of his regular season self in the playoffs this year, with Corey Perry not too far behind in terms of reduced performance, followed by Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who has been inconsistent, bad games followed by good games.

19g

3. On defence, Evan Bouchard and Philip Broberg have improved their performance in the playoffs over the regular season, with Bouchard’s defensive play trending up. Mattias Ekholm, Brett Kulak and Cody Ceci are all playing at about the same level as they did in the regular season, though Ceci’s play then was also somewhat subpar. Darnell Nurse and Vincent Desharnais have been in massive defensive slumps all playoffs, leaking Grade A shots at a high rate.

4. On the attack, most of the players have also seen their rate of major contributions to Grade A shots drop from the regular season to the playoffs. The biggest drops are with Foegele, Perry, RNH, Sam Carrick and McLeod at forward and with Nurse on defence.

Grade A

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