Colliton likes playing matchup game
The Blackhawks were the home team in Game 3 for the first time in the playoff qualifying series against the Oilers, meaning that — in addition to red sweaters and Jim Cornelison’s recorded national anthems — they enjoyed last change.
That allowed coach Jeremy Colliton to control the line and pairing matchups.
The Hawks will be considered the home team Friday in Game 4, too, making the decisions Colliton made particularly insightful to analyze.
On the lineup front entering Game 3, Colliton permanently moved Patrick Kane onto the Kirby Dach-Alex DeBrincat line and away from the Dylan Strome-Alex Nylander line, a change that began to happen during Game 2.
And in terms of matchups, Colliton mainly keyed on forcing the Oilers’ two superstars — Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl — to go up against the Hawks’ own best two lines.
“[It’s] just nice to have a free look at who’s coming and try to put guys in a good situation,” Colliton said Thursday. “McDavid and Draisaitl are playing half the even-strength minutes almost, so it’s going to need a full team effort to defend them. We’re paying attention who’s on the ice, but it’s too big a job for one group to do.”
Colliton frequently sent out the Jonathan Toews line with Brandon Saad and Dominik Kubalik to counter Draisaitl’s line with Kailer Yamamoto and Andreas Athanasiou.
Colliton also often deployed the new Dach line to slow down McDavid’s line with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Josh Archibald.
In Games 1 and 2, when Oilers coach Dave Tippett had last change, he often tried to get the Draisaitl and McDavid lines out against the Hawks’ weaker fourth line.
“It helps anytime we get the home-ice advantage or last change,” Saad said. “You can pick and choose your matchups . . . It’s a strategy the coach can use, using our depth and using our players the way he wants to, and it paid off in the end there.”
NOTE: Oilers forward Tyler Ennis is “out indefinitely” with an undisclosed injury, coach Dave Tippett said Thursday. Tippett also gave no update on defenseman
Adam Larsson, who surprisingly missed Game 3. Ennis was helped off the ice during the second period Wednesday, unable to put weight on his right leg, after Kirby Dach crushed him into the boards. Caleb Jones was Larsson’s replacement in Game 3, while either Joakim Nygard or Patrick
Russell should step in for Ennis in Game 4.