Ever been sitting in the seats at T-Mobile listening to the names announced in the starting lineup or been sitting at home watching the faces scroll across the top of the screen and thought to yourself, why are these players in the starting lineup tonight?
Normally, you would simply assume that the best players start the game to allow them to get the most playing time, but in hockey that’s not always the case. With the Golden Knights, the nearly every player on the team has drawn into the starting lineup at some time or another. There’s no question the top line is Smith, Karlsson, and Marchessault, but sometimes Carrier, Bellemare, and Nosek hear their names announced as starters.
The standard explanation for this is that there would be a strategical advantage to start a certain line and certain defensive pairing. Normally that would be to match up the lines against what the opponents put on the ice.
It’s a lesser-known fact in the NHL, but at every stoppage of play the away team chooses their players first and then the home team gets to react and pick their players (except for icings when all players on the infracting team must remain on the ice). So, for the starting lineup, the away team picks, and then the home team gets to pick to match.
However, with All Star head coach Gerard Gallant, he goes with a bit of a different method.
Sometimes it’s to reward guys for a real good game the game before. Sometimes it’s coach’s superstition. Marchessault’s line won four or five games in a row so you just start them. And then some night’s it’s who the other team starts. When you are the home team you sorta look at who they are starting. Some coaches match real hard, I’m not a big hard matcher. -Gerard Gallant
He literally doesn’t care.
To be honest with you though it’s a coin toss for me. -Gallant
So the next time you think, why the heck is that guy in there to start the game, just know…
It’s insignificant. -Gallant
I’m not completely buying that. Look at the New Jersey game. The Eakin line was out there almost exclusively against the Hall line. They were also very good at shutting that line down as Hall was kept off of the score sheet until things were out of hand with goals six and seven. Of course the meatballs that sit next to me couldn’t grasp the concept of matching lines and was wondering why the Eakin line was “the #1 line”. They weren’t.
You don’t have to chase matchups, but in certain situations, it can be very beneficial.