How do you explain why a half dozen professional hockey players can show up without their helmets screwed on straight for a game like last night?
How can a team like the Edmonton Oilers not have everybody going from the get-go for a game against the worst team in the NHL -- especially while riding a four-game winning streak at home?
'FOUR OR FIVE'
"We had four or five guys who didn't come to play," marvelled captain Ethan Moreau.
"We had a lot of guys who were pretty happy starting the game," he added of a team riding its longest win streak since November 2006.
"We can't afford that right now. We had an emotional win against Calgary and we talked about not having an emotional letdown in this one. In our position, four games on and one game off is not acceptable," he continued of last night's 3-1 loss to the Los Angeles Kings.
The captain didn't call out players in particular but he said "if you're not contributing something offensively, block a shot. Get a hit. Do something."
Moreau threw a couple hits and tried to illustrate the point early while an inordinate number of Oilers were throwing snow.
Nobody seemed to notice.
"We didn't have the same level of competitiveness or professionalism we had against Calgary. Obviously we didn't have everybody ready to play," Moreau concluded.
Coach Craig MacTavish was asked to respond to his captain's comments.
"Did we have passengers? Yeah. That's fair to say. Early on we had a few passengers."
There's a bigger question here.
How frequently, in the eighth-place-or-bust history of this hockey team, have the Oilers reached the dizzying heights of .500 and failed to win the next game?
Again and again and again and again.
It's happened so many times it's like they're allergic to success, or perhaps deep down they don't see themselves as being worthy.
"I don't know," said MacTavish.
"I'm not of the belief that there's anything psychological like we don't see ourselves as a team or that there's a burden we can't overcome.
"In fact, it's something we intend to overcome on this road trip."
General manager Kevin Lowe offered no help.
"No," he said when asked to provide analysis. "That's your job."
I got nuthin'.
All I know is that it was the fourth time this year, dating back to the fifth game of the season, that the Oilers have been at .500 and failed to win the next one.
And if you count the games where winning the next one would put them at .500 as well, their record is 2-7.
One thing I know is that it's not just a this-year thing.
It's been been a regular occurrence.
Getting past .500 is like an electric fence to this team. They keep zapping themselves.
You can make a case that the Oilers weren't really a .500 hockey club going into the game last night with a record of 21-21-2-2, that it really was 21 wins with 25 losses with some loser points attached.
But you can't disagree with the fact the Oilers have 47 points and need to get about 50 more out of their remaining 35 games if they're to capture the final playoff position.
Do the math.
You can't afford to be losing home games to the Los Angeles Kings two nights after winning a credibility game against the Calgary Flames
The Oilers' effort, if you could call it that, spoiled the effect of what they'd accomplished against Calgary and during the rest of the homestand.
THREE SHOOTOUT WINS
The last time the Oilers had a chance to go over .500 they had a three-game winning streak with three straight shootout victories and then proceeded to lose the next four in a row.
So stay tuned.
You can make the case that there are two teams on the ice last night, that the Kings played a terrific game and deserve full credit for what was their third straight win in their attempt to climb out of the sewer.
But the point here is that there weren't two teams on the ice. Half a dozen of the Oilers didn't show up.