Oilers' bad habits - sloppy defensive play, brutal giveaways and a misfiring offence - finally exposed in stinker against Colorado

ROBIN BROWNLEE, EDMONTON SUN

, Last Updated: 11:16 AM ET

Like a comb-over in a wind storm.

Or flatulence in a crowded elevator.

Thanks to excellent goaltending, the Edmonton Oilers have fooled some people, and clearly themselves, by skulking off with two points in several hockey games they didn't deserve to win.

Pull Dwayne Roloson from the picture, though, and the Oilers get exposed - like the bald dude with the weave when a gust of wind kicks up or the chronically gassy guy busting off a plate of pickled eggs and cabbage when the elevator doors close.

NOT GOOD ENOUGH

What the Oilers have been too often, despite a 13-9-2 record, is not nearly good enough. That was abundantly clear in the 7-3 waxing they got from the Colorado Avalanche Thursday on a rare off-night by Roloson.

Nice swirl, loser.

"A lot of areas of our game were weak," said MacTavish after putting the Oilers through their paces yesterday in preparation for Columbus tonight.

"Today is a case of further identifying those areas and trying to shore up those areas. The skill part of our game wasn't very good.

"The tactical part of our game was real bad. If you have one, you may get away with the other going, but when they both go, you're in trouble. We have some work ahead of us."

The Oilers, thanks to Roloson, have pulled a bunch of fast ones this year. More than once, MacTavish has referred to wins as "misleading."

He's seen bad habits and lapses sneak into his team's game with unsettling regularity.

On most occasions, Roloson, who had a six-game winning streak before the Oilers blew a 2-0 lead in a 3-2 overtime loss to Anaheim Tuesday, has cleaned up the mess. Thursday, Roloson had an off night, too. It's games like that when the, ahem, bald pate is exposed for all to see and stink fills everyone's nostrils.

That's when you get what we saw against Colorado, who waltzed to victory almost uncontested thanks to breakdowns - the Oilers had 30 giveaways after 33 against the Ducks - sloppy defensive play and failure to execute and create offensively.

"Puck movement. Decisions. Offensive opportunities created by the forwards. The amount of turnovers we had," began MacTavish, when asked what flaws he saw against Colorado.

"The wounded-duck passes we had. The tough clears. The poor support. Virtually no speed. All those areas. The vital signs were not great."

Shame-faced once the dressing room doors finally opened after the loss to Colorado, the Oilers manned up and admitted they'd been lousy. But they've talked that talk before.

And, while they've been reasonably diligent in bouncing back from a bad effort with a good one, they've won games on no fewer than a half-dozen occasions when they've been thoroughly outworked and outclassed, only to get away with it thanks to Roloson.

At 37, Roloson shouldn't be expected to stand on his greying head almost every night so the Oilers can win. Roloson's not the kind of guy to throw his teammates under the bus and say that, but it's true nonetheless.

"He's going to be fine," said MacTavish, when asked if Roloson is showing signs of wear after 22 appearances in 24 games. "We definitely need him and this is no time to take our best player out of our lineup."

Outside of a 6-2 butt-kicking the Oilers took in Phoenix Oct. 26, Thursday was the low point. How they bounce back against the Jackets will show us something - but not everything.

NEED TO WIN ON MERIT

There have been too many mediocre efforts to write them off as exceptions. What the Oilers need for their collective psyche is to put together a stretch in which they play well enough to win every night - on merit instead of goaltending.

"We're finding ways to win," MacTavish said. "We're in the right spots and we can compliment ourselves for being in those right spots and winning the games, but I'm not sure that's entirely correct.

"We've had pretty spectacular goaltending this year. It's almost the polar opposite of where we were at this point last year when we were playing well and reasonably happy with our game but weren't getting the saves we needed."

Who cut the cheese?


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