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Photo Credit: Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Larsson Penalty Didn’t Cost Oilers the Game

Adam Larsson’s five minute elbowing major occurred 2:45 into the second period last night. He was given a game misconduct, which isn’t automatic for any major penalty. He got the misconduct due, I assume, to rule 45 involving elbowing penalties.

The rule reads like this:

Rule 45 – Elbowing 45.1 Elbowing – Elbowing shall mean the use of an extended elbow in a manner that may or may not cause injury.

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45.3 Major Penalty – A major penalty, at the discretion of the Referee, shall be imposed on any player who uses his elbow to foul an opponent.  A major penalty must be imposed under this rule for a foul resulting in an injury to the face or head of an opponent (see 45.5).

45.5 Game Misconduct Penalty – When a major penalty is imposed under this rule for a foul resulting in an injury to the face or head of an opponent, a game misconduct penalty shall also be imposed.

Here is the play. Obviously, referees Tom Chmielewski and Steve Kozari felt it deserved a major penalty.

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He makes contact with T.J Tynan’s face. There was no serious injury, but they felt intent was still worthy of a major. Watching it again, and in slow motion, which they did to uphold the major, I felt they saw clear contact to the face so they upheld it. I do wonder if the elbow to Rasmus Dahlin earlier this week by Erik Cernak, which wasn’t called on the ice, but Cernak received a two-game suspension for, was a reason this call was made. My initial reaction was it was a minor penalty, however, I can see why they decided it was a major penalty. Direct contact to the face by an elbow with Tynan not looking. Add in the league being very sensitive on headshots, I can see why he was given a major.

I asked former NHL referee, Kerry Fraser, and contributor on NHL.com and TSN 1260, his thoughts on the play.

“My first look I thought contact was below the chin and considerable embellishment. Freeze frame shows contact was to face; however the Oiler player’s “defensive reaction” was a “reflex” to defend against a smaller attacker who was approaching with speed and a threatening demeanor. Should be a minor penalty in my judgement. However, given what has transpired recently with missed elbow “attack” resulting in concussion injury I can understand why the refs would overreact to this type of infraction. With another player down on the ice we also can’t be sure that the elbow was viewed in its entirety as opposed to the tail end/result.”

I can understand the debate of whether it was a minor or a major. Totally fair.

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COST THEM THE GAME…

Sep 28, 2019; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers defenseman Adam Larsson (6) against the Calgary Flames during the third period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

However, the follow-up argument that this penalty cost the Oilers the game is a weak one in my eyes.

Let’s recap what happened last night.

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The Oilers led 1-0 after the first period. Shots were 14-13 Colorado. Both teams had some good chances and the game was pretty even. It was wide open hockey.

Courtesy of SportLogiq, each team had had five shots from the slot, each had one scoring chance off the rush. They both had fairly even controlled exits and entries.

The second period started and there were no whistles until the Larsson penalty. Moments before Alex Chiasson was hammered by Ryan Graves with a clean, open-ice hit.

The Avalanche went on the powerplay. They only had one shot in the first three minutes, but then Leon Draisailt took a tripping minor. The Avs didn’t score on the 5-on-3, despite having it for a full two minutes. They did muster five shots in the final 49 seconds of the two-man advantage, but didn’t score.

Usually, when you kill off a 5-on-3 for two minutes the bench gets a huge lift. That didn’t happen. Edmonton only had one shot in the first ten minutes — James Neal from in tight.

Then the Oilers made a bad pinch and Nazem Kadri skated in on a two-on-one from his own blueline and fired tied the game with a nice short-side shot.

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The rest of the period, the Oilers managed four shots. Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl from 23-feet each, Neal from 31 feet and Darnell Nurse from 64 feet. They didn’t get very close to the net. But they started the third tied 1-1.

The Oilers had two shots in the first 1:38 — Nurse from 61 feet and Klefbom from 60 feet. Then Matt Nieto scored at 3:05 and it was the first of three goals in a span of 2:32. Game over.

The Oilers didn’t muster another shot after Klefbom’s shot 1:38 into the period.

Edmonton was outshot 36-7 in the final two periods. Edmonton finished with seven shots from the slot while Colorado had 26. The Avs were able to breakout of their zone much too easily, as they had 81 controlled exits to the Oilers’ 55.

We can debate if Larsson’s elbow was a minor or a major, but I don’t see that causing the Oilers to fall apart. They were excellent on the Avalanche’s ensuing powerplay, and killing off Larsson and Draisaitl’s penalties should have given them a boost, but it didn’t.

Dave Tippett said this when he was asked if the Larsson penalty cost them the game?

“No. We killed that penalty. We get a good kill; kill a two-minute 5-on-3. You’d think we’d get momentum and play smart after that. We gave the game away. It’s too bad because your goaltender stands on his head like that to give you a chance. Other than the goaltender and the penalty kill, to play like we did was unacceptable.”

He’s bang on about Mikko Koskinen. He was outstanding all game, especially early in the first period.

The Oilers simply didn’t play well enough to win. The bar of expectations has been raised in Edmonton, and it’s about time. This team has shown they can play well and compete. They were excellent in San Jose, Vegas and Arizona on this road trip. Those three victories over divisional opponents was huge, and that sets up two big games against Vancouver on Saturday and Sunday.

The Oilers will still have off nights. They aren’t that dominant yet, but they’ve proven when they want to play the right way they can be a solid team. It is up to them to try and eliminate the bad games like they had in Los Angeles and Colorado.

PARTING SHOTS…

Alex Chiasson will be out at least one week as he is in concussion protocol. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins didn’t skate today and it’s unlikely he plays this weekend. The Oilers have had a constant stream of players on the IR. Joakim Nygard will draw in for Chiasson. Matt Benning is getting close to returning on the blueline.

Mike Smith will start Saturday at home to the Canucks, while Koskinen will go in Vancouver on Sunday.

The Oilers have played 1/3 of their schedule and have a very solid record of 16-8-3. They’ve played five more games on the road than at home. Of their remaining 55 games they will play 30 at home and 25 on the road. They have nine home games in December and four on the road.

Including the two final two games this month against the Canucks, in their next 15 games they will play eight teams currently in a playoff spot and seven who are on the outside.

Nugent-Hopkins’ absence will give Ken Holland a good look at why he likely needs another centre, and I wonder if makes him looks to acquire a centre sooner than he might have planned.

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