CALGARY — This just in: Losing sucks.
Doesn't matter whether you're young or old, building from the ground up or defending a title, losing all the time can really drain the life out of a hockey club.
And while four in a row doesn’t constitute “all the time,” it’s close enough for the Edmonton Oilers.
“A really good team never loses three in a row, and right now we’re at four,” said alternate captain Ryan Whitney, after Edmonton’s last practice before trying to reverse their fortunes Tuesday night in Calgary.
“That’s why this game is huge; you can’t lose five games in a row. We haven’t lost any of these games in overtime, either. You lose a bunch in a row in shootouts, that’s one thing, but when don’t get one out of a possible 10 points you’re not going to make the playoffs.”
Whitney wants a Game 7 mentality, even if it’s only Game 7 of the regular season.
“Winning this one and being 3-4, I don’t think that’s disappointing, being one game under .500,” he said. “But you don’t want it to be five in a row heading into back-to-back games on the road. We have to win, even though it’s the seventh game of the season it’s a must-win.”
There is a significant difference psychologically between opening a three-game road trip with a tough win in Calgary or taking a five-game losing streak into a back-to-back road set in Columbus and Chicago.
“There’s no question that we don’t want to get used to what’s happening right now,” head coach Tom Renney, who wants to exorcise some of the evils that showed up in Edmonton’s lethargic 6-1 loss to San Jose on Saturday, before they become habits.
“It’s one thing to get beaten, it’s another thing to lose. What we don’t want to do is get beaten. We don’t want to get pushed around and tossed around in a game to where we just can’t compete.”
The Oilers looked like world beaters in their home opener against the Flames, but it’s been getting away from them ever since.
“We played great that first game, played really well the first two, and all of a sudden it fell apart,” said Whitney.
After a night like last Saturday, the Oilers need a statement game.
“There’s ups and downs in an NHL season and we’ve already seen it in a small sample size of six games,” said Sam Gagner. “But if we’re going to lose, we want it to be because we’re working hard and doing the right things, but we’re making the odd mistake. Mistakes happen. We never want it to be from lack of effort or enthusiasm, which I don’t think is the case here. But the game against San Jose is something we don’t want to have happen again. We have to find that sense of urgency and get back on the right page.”
Nobody’s looking at the standings yet, but at the same time there’s nothing worse than being out of it by Christmas.
“You want to stay close, but at the same time I’ve been through it before and you can’t panic, you can’t come to the rink and be worried about it every day, it just makes for a miserable atmosphere,” said Shawn Horcoff, who saw enough in the home opener to know the Oilers will get it going. “The good thing is we know we have it in here. We know we have the talent level in here to play with every team.
“But when you lose three in a row and then come out and have an effort like San Jose, you have to be careful. Maybe it was a product of trying to do too much, being too cute. Instead of chipping pucks in, getting on the forecheck, getting in front of the net, getting some dirty goals and getting your bounces that way.”