It's time to walk the walk

ROBIN BROWNLEE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:49 AM ET

DETROIT -- The Edmonton Oilers said all the right things yesterday after Sunday's stunning 2-1 loss to the St. Louis Blues, but what did you expect after a defeat that could cost them a playoff spot?

Of course, the Oilers have proven time and again words are worth a dime-a-dozen as they've kissed off points, including the deuce against the Blues, who'd lost 13 straight games.

So, here they are, having to overcome the numbness of that defeat and a Detroit Red Wings team that has won four straight, six of its last seven and hasn't lost a game in regulation time in over a month.

Having abdicated control of their playoff fate with Sunday's dismal display, they're rolling the dice -- as in 2003-04 -- and flirting with the monumental embarrassment of missing playoffs.

That aside, Sunday's no-show is tantamount to a slap in the face of team owners and fans, who pay the freight in dollars and loyalty and were led to believe this season would be different.

The Oilers were talking the talk again yesterday, knowing even if they do walk the walk now, it might not be enough to beat the Red Wings and make up for the points they've left on the table.

Let them tell you ...

"It was pretty disappointing, obviously," said Chris Pronger. "To come out with two periods, in probably our most important game of the season, the way we did ... It's disappointing and disheartening to see the position we've left ourselves in. At the same time, we need to dust ourselves off and come out and play a good game against one of the best teams in the league in Detroit."

Coach Craig MacTavish didn't take the ice for practice yesterday, having his say in the dressing room, then letting Charlie Huddy, Bill Moores and Craig Simpson oversee proceedings.

"He probably wanted to kill everyone," said Pronger.

Probably.

Not being ready and willing to kick backside from the first drop of the puck against the Blues, a thinly disguised AHL team, tells me this is a group of players fundamentally flawed in character, chemistry and mental makeup.

Three straight losses to St. Louis? Six losses against Minnesota? The Oilers humiliate Phoenix 7-1 one night, then stand around for 40 minutes against St. Louis? Look at the schedule. Sunday was not a first offence. Not nearly.

"The last thing you want to be left with is a sense of missed opportunity," said MacTavish. "That's the thing, really, that compounds the level of frustration.

"You're at the time of year now where you have to walk away from that baggage and try to get energized to play the next game."

The Oilers have lost because they were beaten by a hot goaltender. They've come out playing with purpose and not been rewarded. That's bad luck and bad hands. Fair enough.

They've been beaten too many times because they've been second-best between the pipes. That's over-estimating your talent and personnel in the crease. OK. That's hindsight.

But to not come out ready against the Blues? To not start swinging until you're on the floor in a game that means so much? There's no excuse, none, for that. That's a fundamental flaw. A fatal flaw. A tired act.

"That seems to be the story of our team," Pronger said. "We play down to the lower-end teams and we play up to the upper-echelon teams. For whatever reason, we don't seem to come with the same intensity, work ethic and focus against those bottom teams.

"You run out of games, eventually. We've only got three left. We desperately need those two points and I think everybody in this locker-room understands that. At least, I hope they do."


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