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GENE'S BLOG: Advantage Edmonton

Penalty enforcement could favour the Oilers in 2017-18, Sportsnet's Gene Principe says

by Gene Principe /

EDMONTON, AB - This past weekend I split my time between Edmonton Oilers camp and the Davis Cup. It was off to Rogers Place for hockey and then Northlands Coliseum for tennis. Apparently, I wasn't the only one as I spotted Darnell Nurse and Connor McDavid courtside at Dennis Shapovalov's match on Friday night.

In tennis, if the game gets to 40-40 it's called deuce and the winner of the next point has the advantage. It puts them a point away from potentially winning the game. Well after watching the first few nights of pre-season hockey I think the Edmonton Oilers have the 'advantage' when it comes to winning more games thanks to NHL officiating. 

The League may want to get the officials a deodorant sponsorship deal considering how often they have their arms up. I know some people think it stinks (not the referees, but the calls). The amount of pre-season penalties has been off the board everywhere across the League. However, it's about the rules being in place but previously not enforced to the letter of the law. Now they are and that's why it really has been a parade to the penalty box in the first week of the exhibition season. I'm still a little torn on whether I like it or not but if you are Edmonton Oilers fan you have to like what this could mean for your team. 

Let's just take into account what's happened thru the first three games of the Oilers exhibition schedule. Three goals at Rogers Place Monday night. One power-play goal for the Oilers in their other game against Calgary Monday night. Add two more goals on the man-advantage versus Winnipeg Wednesday night and that's quite a total of tallies while a man up. I know at this time of the year we always have to preface everything by saying, 'It's only the pre-season,' but still, what a start to Edmonton's work in one-half of the special teams battle. 

It's not like the Oilers didn't have a dynamic powerplay last season. 

Under the tutelage of assistant coach Jay Woodcroft, the team turned in a sparkling finish of fifth overall in power play percentage. They were clicking at a 22.9 percent rate. They scored 56 times on 245 chances. Easy math (245 divided by 82) suggests they had just under three power-play opportunities a game (2.987 to be exact). So far this September, it feels like they have that many by the end of warm-up or at least by the end of the first period. It's been an adjustment shall we say for the players and the fans but get used to it. Sounds like the NHL has mandated this as their new approach to penalties and it won't change when the calendar flips to October. 

With McDavid and Leon Draisaitl only getting better at what they do and throw in the size of Milan Lucic or Patrick Maroon as net-front presence - plus the sniping of Mark Letestu - this power play could even be better this season. Not to mention how Ryan Strome might fit in or Drake Caggiula's continued development. There's also the 'Klef-bomb' offered by Oscar from the point. When up a man or two Edmonton could be putting up a few aces that opposing teams can't handle as the new rules and the way they are administered could be an advantage for Edmonton.

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