Gene Principe talks about the early success of the Oilers power play
Ales Hemsky's power play unit is a deadly second option for the Oilers.
(Photo by Andy Devlin / Edmonton Oilers Hockey Club)
The NHL season has just begun but so has the Edmonton Oilers power play when it comes to inflicting damage. I knew it would be good but I didn't know it would be spanking other team's penalty killing units so swiftly and so strongly in the first ten days of the season. 10 goals on 28 chances for an efficiency rating of 35.7% which leads the NHL. At this point two-thirds of the Oilers goals --10 of 15 -- have been scored with the man advantage.
It was accented by the show put on by the Edmonton power play units Monday night against an overwhelmed group of Colorado penalty killers. Edmonton turned the Avs three holding, one hooking, one slashing and one interference penalty into a 4-for-6 night and came within a single man-advantage goal of equaling a club record. The Oilers on five occasions have scored five power play goals. They first time they did it was 1980. The other four occasions happened in a span of 13 months from October 11/87 to November 19/88. Those days are long gone but maybe they are on their way back. Tuesday night was a glimpse into the past but at the same time a look into the present and future.
The Oilers did their man advantage damage in many ways against the Avalanche. They outmanned and outworked the visitors on Ales Hemsky's goal. Then it was a sterling shot to the shelf by Jordan Eberle, a lucky break as the puck re-directed off Shawn Horcoff's skate and finally an empty netter by Nail Yakupov to send the Oilers into second overall in the NHL's power play rankings (The Sharks went 0-for-2 on Tuesday night to vault the Oilers into first). It was a mix of skill and luck but if you believe that you make your own breaks Edmonton has been doing that when up a man. Their talent isn't enough on its own, they have to produce the work ethic to match it.
It was a point made by head coach Ralph Krueger that throwing your sticks on the ice and showing off your NHL entry draft credentials won't nearly be enough. They have to get the puck. If they lose it they have to go get again. They have to get traffic in front of the opposing teams net. They have to win faceoffs in order to spend more time with the puck then without. The power play isn't complicated. There are some basic rules of success that the Oilers have to follow and through five games they have done that.
Where Edmonton has a distinct advantage is being able to throw out not one but two potentially deadly power play groups. If the other team has killed off the first minute of a penalty and sent Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle, Justin Schultz and Shawn Horcoff to the bench wondering why they didn't score, the Oilers can then follow that up with Ales Hemsky, Nail Yakupov, Sam Gagner, Teemu Hartikainen and Ryan Whitney. Not much fun for the other team to try and keep both those units off the scoreboard.
I haven't even mentioned Ryan Smyth. He had nine seconds of power play time against Colorado. This is a guy that has 121 power play goals with Edmonton. Only Glenn Anderson with 126 and Wayne Gretzky with 125 have more in an Oilers uniform. It's another option at Ralph Krueger's disposal when or if he needs it. For now he doesn't as the coach has enough power play weapons to go around.