Knoblauch defends decision to go back to Nurse and Ceci.

Knoblauch defends decision to go back to Nurse and Ceci.

The head coach of the Edmonton Oilers responds to questions about one of his more controversial decisions.

Jonathan Larivee

The Edmonton Oilers find themselves in an early deficit in the Stanley Cup Final after losing Game 1 to the Florida Panthers in spite of the fact that they largely controlled the flow of play throughout the game. Despite the dominance from the Oilers on the ice they walked away from Game 1 without the victory, and quickly following the loss the finger of blame was largely being directed at two players.

Those two players are Oilers defenseman Darnell Nurse and Oilers defenseman Cody Ceci, a pairing that has been nothing short of catastrophic for the Oilers in the 2024 Stanley Cup playoffs. In spite of the fact that they have not been good together, Oilers head coach Kris Knoblauch would once again deploy the pairing in Game 1, resulting in both players being on the ice together for both of the Florida Panthers goals excluding the empty net goal.

The pairing has been so bad in fact that, following the loss in Game 1, Knoblauch was publicly challenged by members of the media to provide his reasoning for why he would go back to such an abysmal defensive pairing. Knoblauch would explain his rational while also acknowledging that things didn't look the best for Nurse and Ceci as a duo.

"We look at players involved in scoring chances, for and against," began Knoblauch. "I guess if you look at actual goals scored for and against, it's not favorable."

He would however also defend his decision to go back to the pairing, citing advanced analytics as a reason for going back to them.

"The expected goals for and against doesn't paint the same picture at all, completely different," argued Knoblauch. "We're balancing what's best for those two players but also what's best for all six of our defensemen."

Knoblauch acknowledged that these decision are difficult at this time of year and stressed that he hasn't decided what he will do about the Nurse and Ceci pairing for Game 2.

"As a coaching staff we always have to make those decisions, its not easy, and sometimes you have to give a little to get something else," said Knoblauch. "As for the match up next game.... we haven't made any decisions yet.

I know Oilers fans are hoping that, whatever the decision may be, Knoblauch will be separating the pairing before it's too late.