Former Oilers coach Ron Low impressed how Edmonton has turned the tide against Florida

“If the Oilers start scoring on the power play, then Florida can’t play that reckless game they want to play.”

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Ron Low, who coached the Edmonton Oilers to their shocking first round playoff win over the Dallas Stars in 1997, watched Connor McDavid go end-to-end, late in the power play, to set up Corey Perry for a tap-in and darned near jumped out of his seat Tuesday.

When other people are playing on fumes, McDavid isn’t.

“Man, he’s got a big tank…it’s like an F150,” said Low, watching on TV.

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“Lots of gas, it would get you to Dauphin,” laughed Low, of the Manitoba town he used to play in as a youngster.

In the special teams battle in this Stanley Cup Final the McDavid dazzler on the power play book-ended their earlier shorthanded goal by Connor Brown.

“Brown’s a really, good skater… I mean he blew past Barkov,” said Low. “And I cursed at (Mattias) Janmark this year for stupid penalties but he’s played really well (with Brown on the PK). I kind of look at Janmark as a poor man’s (Esa) Tikkanen.”

And this is very much turning into a special teams story, as much as people are raving about McDavid putting the Oilers on his back at even-strength too, or the fact as one former NHL coach said “(Stuart) Skinner looks big in the net now and (Sergei) Bobrovsky looks small because the Oilers keep coming at him.”

The Oilers are also stretching the ice, working the weak-side winger coming across the ice for passes, taking a page out of Dallas’ playbook, and their top players are raising their games while Florida’s have gone quiet after Game 3.

Penalty kill is rolling

But, the Oilers have killed 43 of the last 44 power plays over 15 playoff games, and while Evan Rodrigues, the Panthers’ most consistent forward in the Final, redirected a pass past Skinner for a power play goal in Game 2, that’s it. They’ve stopped Florida’s power play.

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“What’s really demoralizing is the Florida power play is now giving up short-handed goals or it winds up with low-scoring chances,” said the unnamed veteran coach who wanted to remain anonymous.

“They get really nervous or jittery and that’s where their power play is right now. They look unsure of themselves, their casual plays are getting picked off by the Oilers.”

Not only did Brown scored on a short-handed deke, but Janmark got to the blue paint in Game 4 to finish off a penalty-kill pass from Brown for a short-handed goal, too.

And the Oiler power play, was 2-for-5 against Florida in Game 5.

“Two short-handed goals to start games off is freaking nuts,” said Low.

Killers,  although there was a somewhat more subdued commentary from Florida head coach Paul Maurice.

“We’ll fix it, that’s how I feel about it. We can fix it,” said Maurice.

Low said the biggest difference with the Oilers penalty kill is their speed aggressiveness.

“The Oilers penalty-killing has been so good because they’re using their speed, man. You need a special group of skaters to be able to press three guys into a corner, all at once. They’re out-gunning the power play guys, and they’re getting the puck. When I coached, we stayed in a box. These guys now, they’re way more aggressive,” said Low.

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“And, if Florida keeps playing the way they’re playing… they can’t take penalties if the Oilers are starting to score on the power play. First three games, they couldn’t score, but look at the difference now.

“If the Oilers start scoring on the power play, then Florida can’t play that reckless game they want to play. They work a lot on intimidation and that’s part of their game. They play really tough and they’re miserable but the thing is you can only be so miserable and then the other team says ‘go ahead, we’re going to score here.”

Potent power play

Low looks at the Oiler power play as the ultimate weapon, like everybody else in the NHL.

“Florida is as aggressive on their penalty-kill as the Oilers, but the Oilers keep the puck. If the Oilers can maintain possession in the Florida zone for 30-35 seconds, then they almost end up with one unbelievable chance, even if they don’t score,” said Low.

“Everybody on that Oiler power play can pass. There’s not one guy who can’t. That’s a big thing. I mean, Connor’s a beast. He’s off-the-charts, he’s always skating. If it’s (power play) not working, he says ‘piss, on this, we’re going river hockey.’ Best I’ve ever seen. If two guys are closing on him, he just finds somebody open.”

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The unnamed veteran NHL coach sees a different Florida team today than 10 days ago when the series started.

“What I see is Florida looking unnerved on both sides of the special teams. The key on the Oiler power play, for me, is their movement. The key guy isn’t just standing there trying to set up a play. He’s moving and that can be confusing for defenders. You lose coverage because of that,” said the NHL coach.

“The Oilers were the No. 1 team in the National Hockey League this season in terms of starting with the puck on the power play. They either won the face-off or if they lost it, they got it back. Right now, the defending team is under pressure because the puck doesn’t get out of their zone.”

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