SUN Hockey Pool

Are the Oilers for real?

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 11:45 AM ET

Hah, humbug.

For the longest time there, it looked like bah, humbug.

But, ha, the Edmonton Oilers continued living large, continued living lucky or whatever it is we've been watching.

Don't ask why, don't ask how, just go with the ho-ho-ho flow and behold the hometown hockey team going into the Christmas break sitting in a position in the standings where they haven't been since Gretzky was a child.

It was another Miracle On 18th Avenue for the team which is now on a five-game winning streak, having come from behind in every one of those games by either two goals or more than one goal deficit during those games.

Both Edmonton and Los Angeles went into the game on four-game winning streaks - the Kings looking to come out of the Western Canadian Triangle with wins in Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton on the same swing for the first time in their history.

Both teams went into the game with a chance to emerge in first place in their division.

CAN YOU BELIEVE IT?

And when it all shook down, as the Oilers came from behind 3-2 after two to win 5-3, Edmonton headed to the holiday with 46 points, first in the division and, if you can believe it, second overall in the Western Conference.

This is a team which killed 12 consecutive power plays to win. This is a team which has produced at least an overtime or shootout loser point for the standings every game this month.

This is a team which hasn't lost by more than one goal since a 3-1 loss in Chicago on Nov. 13. This is a team which hasn't lost by more than a single point at home since the 7-1 drubbing by Colorado on Oct. 21.

As the Oilers head home or phone home to family and friends at Christmas, they're all going to be asked the same thing.

"Are you guys for real?''

With that in mind, I took a tour of the dressing room after the game last night asking them the same thing.

"I think so. I hope so,'' said captain Jason Smith. "We want to be a team which will play 60 minutes night after night and for the most part, we've been doing that.''

Chris Pronger almost seemed offended at the question.

"Look at what we're doing to win. We're coming in waves and waves. Teams are getting tired and frustrated when we get to the third period.

"We grind on you. And they know we're going to keep coming.''

Shawn Horcoff, who had three third period assists last night, gave it the Santa Claus approach. Real is what you believe.

"We believe in ourselves. We're not half way through the season yet, but we're playing the way we want to play the rest of the way.''

Ales Hemsky, with a goal and an assist broke his total of 34 points from the last NHL hockey season, said things are happening here not just with him but all sorts of players.

"We have a lot of young players who are knowing how to score now. I think we're going to keep knowing how to score.''

CONFIDENT ROOM

One of those is Jarret Stoll who scored his 12th and added an assist to move up to 34 points, said look around.

"There's a lot of confidence in this room. We feel we're for real in this room. Our success has all been on how hard we work as a group and we're working very hard as a group making things happen right now.''

Michael Peca, who in the last couple of weeks has finally been the player the Oilers thought they got, says he thinks this team is for real.

"I really do. There's a lot of belief individually and as a group. Personally, all of a sudden things are starting to click.

"As a team, I think a lot of this goes back to the seven-game losing streak. What we found out during that streak that while we worked hard we had to not just work hard but to execute as well.''

Ryan Smyth, who drew both a four-minute and two-minute penalty late in the third period, said there's no way this team should go into the Christmas break self-satisfied.

"We've found our stride, that's for sure. But the key is making sure we come back from Christmas and play the same way.''

Coach Craig MacTavish?

"I don't have to answer that question. Time will bear that out. We've had a pretty good run over a short time. If we're for real we'll do it over a long period of time, a year, a couple of years ...''

They've made it a Merry Christmas.

Happy New Year is TBA.


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