SUN Hockey Pool

Leave calculating to stats geeks

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:03 AM ET

DENVER -- With the doomsday clock in their dressing room sitting at three minutes to midnight, the Edmonton Oilers don't have to be told how bleak their situation looks.

They can tell time, and they know it's running out.

But if the end is near, you'd never know it from watching them.

Yes, the odds are long and the math is scary. And, no, Edmonton no longer has the final say in whether they make the playoffs or not. Their fate will now be determined by Nashville's ability to navigate a soft schedule and Roberto Luongo's ability to be in two places at once - Vancouver's stretch drive and a Florida maternity ward.

But instead of a holding a Celine Dion lookalike contest - nothing but long faces - the Oilers were remarkably upbeat yesterday in Denver.

MATH PROBLEM

They discovered long ago that trying to calculate their chances only gives them a headache. And that worrying about the enormity of their seemingly hopeless quest only turns them prematurely gray.

So they quit. Cold turkey.

"It's easy," said Marty Reasoner. "How many times have we been written off? Whether it's the media or everyone else saying that this team isn't going to make it. How many times have we turned on the TV and heard that the pick the Ducks are going to get is going to be a lottery pick?

"Everyone counted us out all year."

And they are being counted out again today. The Minnesota loss, you have to figure, was the final nail in a coffin lid that just won't close.

But the Oilers don't see it that way.

"You can't take a defeatist attitude and say that was our last chance," said Reasoner. "We still feel we can put a run together here and give ourselves another one. That's the only way you can look at it."

So they'll just lace 'em up and play tonight in Colorado, and tomorrow in Calgary, and let the stats geeks predict the future.

"It's a product of just ignoring it and then improving your situation," head coach Craig MacTavish said of that funeral music playing in the background. "We've done it time and time again, where you lose a game and people say 'OK, it's over now.' Then you win your next two and 'OK, they're back.' You go through that futile process.

"It's very much the same tonight. You win a game and all of a sudden your situation improves. You give yourself another chance."

For the record, Edmonton's tragic number is three - any combination of Vancouver wins and Oilers losses in regulation and it's over (and that doesn't even factor in Nashville, who probably have the best chance of sliding into eighth). Edmonton needs a 3-1 finish, and a 1-4 finish from Vancouver, or 4-0 and 2-3, to make it.

"We know the gravity of the situation," said MacTavish.

"The situation is pretty dire right now. We have to deliver the goods in the next four games."

HOPES AREN'T DEAD

Their hopes are slim at best. But tell them that and they look at you like you're speaking Japanese.

"We made it a point that we weren't going to let anybody beat us down," said Reasoner. "We'd just go about our business. When we just worry about what we have to do for that next game, that's been the best thing for us. We can't win all four games at once. For us it's just concentrating on the next game and going from there.

"We still believe that we can make a run and get in there. We've proven that when we play well we can play with any team in the league."

There's clearly no 'I' in quit.

"You have to look around the division and hope for games here and there that are going to go your way," said defenceman Matt Greene. "We're not in a position where we can win out and be fine, we need some help from around the league, but if we keep doing what we've been doing, everything will work out for us."


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