Well, I did say that special teams would play a factor in last night’s matchup between the Edmonton Oilers and Colorado Avalanche, but even I didn’t think it would be as one-sided as it ended up being.
The Oilers abused Colorado’s previously 14th-ranked penalty kill last night, going an incredible 4-for-6 with the man-advantage, while the Oilers’ then 11th-ranked penalty kill unit shut the Avalanche down on their three power play opportunities. The disappointing part of this for Avalanche fans is that the Avalanche actually kept themselves relatively under control last night, only getting tagged with 12 penalty minutes as opposed to the league-high 28 per game they were averaging coming in. Unfortunately for the Avalanche, they were facing one of the NHL‘s elite power play units, and it showed.
The Oilers were relentless in their power play pressure, regrouped quickly when rushes were thwarted and to an extent the Oilers simply had luck on their side last night. Passes and shots navigated their way unnaturally through traffic. Ales Hemsky was able to bat a loose puck seemingly through Avalanche netminder Semyon Varlamov for a goal. And to be honest, any night where Shawn Horcoff is able to score a power play goal against you–and only because a shot was redirected off his skate rather than him actually attempting to shoot the puck on net–you might as well just give up because it’s not going to be your night.
Not having Gabriel Landeskog or Ryan O’Reilly in the lineup obviously hurts the Avalanche and makes them an even thinner offensive team, so last night was likely going to be a low-scoring night for them to begin with. But when you give Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle, Justin Schultz, Nail Yakupov and Teemu Hartikainen six chances to score on you with a man-advantage, you’re only making things worse for yourself.
The Oilers capitalized, and vaulted into first place in the Northwest Division in the process.