SUN Hockey Pool

Credibility gapped

TERRY JONES -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:44 AM ET

Nobody should begin planning the parade.

By my mathematics, the Edmonton Oilers can't afford to lose more than 11 games the rest of this season and there's a lot of season left.

But give the Oilers credit for winning a credibility game against the Calgary Flames last night.

It was a game which was a lot of things in a lot of different directions for Craig MacTavish's hockey team.

It was a game which gave them their first four-game winning streak since November of 2006.

It was a win which finally made them a .500 team and finally put them over .500 at home. And it was a win in the division and, of course, a win in a rivalry game with a Calgary team which has been running them out of the rink physically for several seasons now.

But the Oilers' win over the Flames was first and foremost a game which made a statement.

"It showed we are a different team now, a tougher team to beat," said captain Ethan Moreau.

'HUGE'

"It was a huge game for us, by far the biggest game of this homestand.

"This was definitely the game I looked at to see where we were at as a team," the captain continued.

"A lot of our guys talked before the game that this was the game we really needed to set up the remainder of the season.

"Calgary is a more physical team than we've seen in a while and we set the tone. It was really encouraging.

"I was curious to see how our young guys would react and handle this game and they handled it very well.

"This game sets it up to go 5-0 on this homestand. If we'd dropped this one ..."

Shawn Horcoff picked it up there.

"If we lost it, we probably would have had a real letdown. Winning that game was a big step for us," said Horcoff.

When you set out to climb a mountain, you have to believe you can make it past base camp.

And suddenly the Oilers winning this game gave them reason to believe in themselves to at least be capable of taking on the challenge.

"It's fine to beat Phoenix and the Islanders and the Rangers, but it's games against teams like Calgary that you have to win," said Sheldon Souray.

"This league is about goaltending and we're getting awesome goaltending," he said of Mathieu Garon, who stopped 27 of 28 to make it 118 of 123 shots he's stopped since he was made No. 1 at the start of this homestand and began leading this team out of the wilderness with four in a row.

WINNING BATTLES

It's also about winning special teams battles and it's not insignificant that the Oilers have scored on the power play in six straight games now and won five of those six.

And when you get a game winning goal like the double deke Ales Hemsky scored, removing the jockstraps of Robyn Regehr and Mikka Kiprusoff on the same play, there's that, too.

"We needed to win a game like that, especially against them," said Hemsky.

"It was one of our better games.

"It gives us a good feeling and it has to give our fans a good feeling, too. That was a really exciting game for the people."

They'll be talking about his goal for weeks.

"It was an all-world play," said Oilers' coach Craig MacTavish who liked the part of Regehr having roughed up his star 15 seconds before Hemsky undressed him.

The way the Oilers, viewed as a timid team in the first half of the year, played a physical game, especially early, was an eye-opener.

"That was as good a job as we've done in a while initiating."

MacTavish bottom-lined it.

"A lot of good things are happening now. Before, we had a lot of holes in our game.

"That's as complete a game as we've played, start to finish, this year."


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