Oilers have to stop trying to be pretty on power play

Updated: June 13, 2006, 10:54 AM ET
By Barry Melrose | Special to ESPN.com

EDMONTON, Alberta -- Edmonton now faces the one thing all teams hate to face in the playoffs: a 3-1 deficit. Only two teams in NHL history have come back from that hole, so Oilers coach Craig MacTavish has quite the task ahead.

What does he tell his players that will keep their heads out of the sand?

He will tell his team what every other coach for the past 50 years has said: Guys, we have to win just one game. They can't look at the big picture, it's too big and it looks too impossible. He'll reiterate to them: How many times this year have we won one game? That's all they can go out and do, and that's all they can go out and focus on.

That focus will also have to include improving the power play. Edmonton played a great game Monday night, but its power play is killing its chances. The Oilers had another 5-on-3 in the first period, four power plays overall in the session, and they only had eight shots on the board. You have too much to make up for when you don't capitalize on those kinds of opportunities.

On the power play, the Oilers have to look for shots; they are not looking for them right now. They are trying to set up something pretty, and that doesn't play to Edmonton's strengths. The Oilers are a shooting team. They score ugly goals, just like Ryan Smyth's winner in Game 3. They usually get the puck to the net, but they are not any more. So, they have to get it back, not look too hard for passing lanes. As soon as there's an open shot, take it. Put players in front of the net. All of these things, when they are clicking ... that's when Edmonton plays well.

Goalie Jussi Markkanen had a great Game 4, so that's a plus for the Oilers. They now know he can post strong back-to-back performances. They again have a goaltender they can believe in. That has to be a selling point for MacT.

Now, Hurricanes coach Peter Laviolette has to keep his players in check. I don't think they'll have a problem staying focused. Carolina respects Edmonton too much. The Hurricanes have a lot of experienced veterans who have never won the Cup before who have their eyes on the prize, veterans such as Glen Wesley and Rod Brind'Amour. All of the team's veterans know how fast things can change.

With the series shifting to Raleigh, look out for Smyth. He needs to be the Oilers' catalyst now. When they needed a big goal in Game 3, he gave it to them. He has to be a big presence in Game 5. On the Carolina side, look out for Brind'Amour. He has been awesome away from the puck. When his teammates are tired, watching him from the bench, they see him out there working his butt off, logging more minutes than any other forward, and this inspires them.

Barry Melrose, a former NHL defenseman and coach, is a hockey analyst for ESPN.

Barry Melrose

NHL studio analyst
Former NHL player and coach Barry Melrose is an NHL studio analyst for ESPN.