SUN Hockey Pool

Penalty killing an Oil killer

DEREK VAN DIEST, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:49 PM ET

Through the first two games, it was working.

The Edmonton Oilers killed their first nine penalties of the season with an aggressive approach, focused on pressuring the puck.

But then they were exposed by the Minnesota Wild, who rang them up four times in one game with the man advantage.

It’s been a struggle since.

“It’s a combination of things unfortunately,” said Oilers head coach Tom Renney. “I’d like to be able to put my finger on one issue, but it’s a combination of people and execution.

“We’ve tried to do something a little different when we pressure up-ice that was very good to us early, but as it gets scouted, that idea gets challenged. So we have to make sure that we really fortify that and I think in our own end as much as we want to pressure, we have to do it collectively and intelligently and we can’t become disconnected which we did.”

On Saturday, the Oilers gave up three power-play goals to the San Jose Sharks in a 6-1 loss at Rexall place.

“It’s got to get fixed,” Renney said. “It’s very debilitating when you can stay with a team five-on-five and your specialty teams go out and can’t get the job done.”

Since killing off the first nine penalties of the year, the Oilers have given up nine power play goals in 18 short-handed situations.

They are currently tied with the Dallas Stars for the worst penalty-killing unit in the league with a 66.7% efficiency rate.

“The biggest feature of your game against San Jose is discipline,” Renney said. “You have to play an intelligent game. You have to manage the puck well, you have to manage your shifts well. They’re a good change team, so you can’t let yourself get out-changed and you have to stay out of the penalty box to give yourself a fighting chance against a pretty good power play.”

Early in the season the Oilers are still trying to find the right combination of penalty killers.

Against the Sharks Shawn Horcoff and Jordan Eberle were on the ice for all three power-play goals conceded.

In Minnesota, it was Ryan Jones and Colin Fraser who were exposed four times.

“Penalty killing is a mission,” Renney said. “Guys that get a chance to do that, on the good teams, those players take is so seriously, they’re so embraced with the concept of being a good penalty killer that they’re so successful.

“We’ve got to get to that point. That’s a personnel thing. If your best killers are the guys that are playing five-on-five, the power play and penalty killing, then they’re just trying to get out there to survive it.

They want to do a good job, but they want to survive the kill. Whereas if you can give that mandate to players that it becomes a primary function of theirs, they take a great deal of pride in that.”

Another issue that is hurting the Oilers on the penalty kill is their inability to win a face-off.

With the draw coming into the offending team’s zone following a penalty, it’s difficult on the penalty-killers if they have to chase the puck from the onset.

Against the Sharks, the Oilers only won 39% of the draws.

“It’s way worse, but it’s a great rule and a great rule for the game,” Renney said. “We needed the same type of night in the face-off circle that we had a couple of games ago. But we knew we were in tough last night. We had every intention of being as effective, but we weren’t.”

derek.vandiest@sunmedia.ca


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