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As the snow fluttered in Edmonton Monday night, powerplay goals fell in Washington.
For the Oilers, however, it was in the worst possible way.
On a night where they so desperately needed a strong response after coughing up losses to the New Jersey Devils and Dallas Stars late last week, their play failed them.
They offered up five powerplays to Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals, who happily found the back of the net on four of them enroute to a 5-4 victory.
“if you’re paying attention over the last games when we haven’t had success, we’ve tried different people out there,” quipped Oilers head coach Jay Woodcroft after the loss when asked about his penalty kill.
“Different pairings, different looks, different people in different spots to try and spark something there. Right now the way it’s going, it’s going in the net against us. we need to find a way to stem that tide and stack a few good penalty kills on top of each other so you can build a little confidence.”
The only problem is they have no idea how to do it.
Dating back to the preseason, the Oilers’ penalty kill struggled allowing seven goals in eight games. Come the regular season, it’s been no different. The debacle that was dropped their penalty kill percentage to 67.9 on the year. 30th in the league.
This is a far cry from where things were last year for the Oilers under Jay Woodcroft. From the time he took over until the regular season ended, the Oilers killed off 82.1 percent of the penalties they took. It was the eighth-best rate in the league.
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Now, in the 13 games they’ve played this season, they’ve given up a powerplay goal in all but two. Five of those 13 games saw them give up two or more.
“You can’t win taking penalties,” said Zach Hyman after the game.
No kidding. Edmonton’s been the most undisciplined team in the league taking 56 penalties in 13 games — 4.3 per game, for those counting at home.
“It feels like every little bounce is going in,” Hyman continued. “That’s when you need to bear down harder, get on a roll. I don’t think it’s structure. Just not getting a bounce, not getting it out there.”
What has to change? First and foremost, they need to stop taking penalties.
“We put ourselves in positions to take those penalties,” said Woodcroft. “I didn’t think all of them we needed to take.
“That doesn’t help your cause when you’re struggling on the penalty kill.”
Things need to change and they need to change fast. Edmonton takes on the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight. They have the 11th-best powerplay clipping at a 24.5 percent rate.
The saving grace, however, may be matchups Thursday against the Carolina Hurricanes and Saturday against the Florida Panthers. Those teams are only converting at 19.2 percent and 13 percent, the 24th and 30th rates, respectively.
I’m not holding my breath.
Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at [email protected]