Power play in spotlight as Oilers visit Leafs
Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman Justin Holl (3) picks up a penalty on Edmonton Oilers centre Connor McDavid (97) during third period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Monday Jan. 6, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
The power play has been the story for the Edmonton Oilers and Toronto Maple Leafs so far this season, setting up a potential special-teams battle when the Oilers visit the Leafs on Wednesday.
After leading the NHL in both power-play goals and power-play percentage last season, the Oilers are only 2-for-18 with the extra attacker through four games. With two short-handed goals allowed, Edmonton's opponents have actually had an equal amount of success during the Oilers' power-play chances.
Coming off consecutive home losses to the Montreal Canadiens, the Oilers allowed Montreal two power-play goals and two short-handed goals while going 0-for-10 on their own power plays.
That included an 0-for-7 showing in Monday's 3-1 loss, though Ryan Nugent-Hopkins felt the Oilers "were moving it around pretty well ... getting some good looks" with the man advantage.
"But I think when teams are pressuring you like that and things aren't clicking, maybe we need to shoot the puck more, get rebounds and create chaos. ... It was one of those games that's frustrating," Nugent-Hopkins said. "The power play had tons of looks and just couldn't find one."
The Oilers will try to get on track during a four-game road trip that begins with two games in Toronto, as the Maple Leafs look to extend their winning streak to three games.
In contrast to Edmonton's woes on the power play, the Leafs' 3-1-0 record is thanks in large part to strong play by both special-teams units.
Toronto's opponents have been held scoreless on their last 12 power-play attempts and Toronto is 14-for-17 for the season on the penalty kill.
With the extra attacker themselves, the Leafs are 6-for-14, scoring at least one power-play goal in all four games. Team captain John Tavares has been particularly dangerous in these situations, as all three of his goals have come on the power play.
The numbers have helped bolster a Leafs club that has been outscored (8-6) in standard 5-on-5 play thus far.
"The power play's been doing a really good job," Tavares said. "Every game, 5-on-5 continues to be a little bit better, so we'll just try to build on that."
Toronto's Mitch Marner has five points (three goals, two assists) in his last two games.
With Nick Robertson (knee injury) out of action in Monday's 3-1 win over the Winnipeg Jets, the Maple Leafs went with only 11 forwards and deployed a seventh defenseman in rookie Mikko Lehtonen. Since salary cap concerns will keep the back end of Toronto's roster in flux for much of the season, the Leafs could keep the 11-forward alignment in place for Wednesday's game.
Frederik Andersen is Toronto's probable starter in net. Andersen struggled in his first two games but rebounded to stop 27 of 28 shots against the Jets.
Without much help from his defense, Edmonton goaltender Mikko Koskinen has a 3.80 goals-against average and .897 save percentage over four games. Koskinen is likely to start again Wednesday, though the Oilers claimed recently acquired goalie Troy Grosenick to replace the injured Mike Smith as backup.
The Maple Leafs are 14-3-0 in their last 17 games against Edmonton, dating back to the 2010-11 season.