Edmonton Woes: Coaching Error May Have Cost Oilers a Playoff Spot

Martin MaleAnalyst IMarch 29, 2008

The Edmonton Oilers might have lost their chance at the post season after Friday's shootout loss to the Colorado Avalanche. Why and how did they lose?

After a decent start, the Oilers went down two goals. They survived a five on three penalty kill, unfortunately one second after the second penalty Andrew Brunette gave the Avalanche the lead. The time was 7:22 and before the Oilers could recover, Milan Hejduk made it 2-0. Two goals in 40 seconds.

That seemed to wake the Oilers up and on a power play at 12:13 Tom Gilbert took a feed from Robert Nilsson and buried the shot from a bad angle.

1:46 later the Oilers tied it up as a shot from Jarrett Stoll beat a screened Jose Theodore. The period ended where it began, tied. The shots were also even at 12.

The Oilers started to take control of the game in the second period. Their youth and speed appeared to be wearing the older Avs down. Curtis Glencross took advantage of his speed at 7:54 as he took a feed from Kyle Brodziak, blew by the defender and beat Theodore to the far side. The Avalanche tied the game less than four minutes later as Andrew Brunette banged in a loose puck.

That tie lasted another five minutes before the NHL's youngest player, Sam Gagner, found the back of the net. 4-3 Oilers at the end of the second period and they were outplaying the Avalanche.

The third period was a fairly even period with both teams exchanging chances. The game came down to the last minute with the Avalanche pouring on the pressure but the young Oilers bearing the weight of the pressure. Finally the Oilers were able to clear the puck down the ice and earn a face-off in the Avalanche zone with 16 seconds remaining.

The team that Craig MacTavish sent out for this face-off was the wrong line-up in my opinion, and the reason they lost the game. The Avalanche won the face-off and immediately moved the puck into the Edmonton zone and with five seconds left, Joe Sakic found a loose puck and found the net over the shoulder of Dwayne Roloson. I think Roloson went down a little early on that shot and had he remained standing the puck would not have gone in.

The Avalanche controlled the overtime as they out shot the Oilers by a 5-1 margin but couldn't find the net. The game progressed to the shootout where the Oilers have dominated by setting a new NHL record with 15 victories. The Avalanche had won 5 times this season via the shootout and it was to be six times after this night. Wojtek Wolski, Joe Sakic and Milan Hejduk were all able to beat Roloson while Robert Nilsson was the only Oiler to score on Theodore.

As I mentioned, the reason the Oilers lost was the line-up on the ice in the last few seconds. Actually it was one player in particular. I have to question Craig MacTavish as to why he had Ales Hemsky on the ice at this time of the game.

You are up by a goal with 16 seconds to go, you don't need one of the best offensive talents in the game defending a lead. You need players who can check an opponent. I love Ales and think he is one of the most dynamic players in the league but he is paid for his offensive abilities not his defensive ones and it cost the Oilers the game. When the Avalanche scored their tying goal with five seconds left, it was Ales Hemsky who was in the position of missing his check in front of the Oiler net and allowing Joe Sakic to shoot the loose puck past Roloson.

Tie up Sakic or his stick in front and the Oilers win the game. In my opinion, MacTavish needed another defensive forward out for this last shift. Fernando Pisani, Kyle Brodziak or even Curtis Glencross would have been better than Hemsky at this time of the game. Craig made his decision and lost a point because of it and if the Oilers miss the playoffs by a point, this may have been where they look.

Yes there were many points lost early in the season before they started playing like a team, but when you are in this kind of a race for the playoffs the players and coaches have to make the right decisions or it costs them. The coaching decision made last night may just have been the final nail in the coffin of the Edmonton Oilers playoff hopes.