Outmuscled, outhustled

TERRY JONES, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:42 AM ET

Grow, Oilers, Grow.

You've got 48 hours.

Get bigger. Stronger.

Get some of Popeye's spinach.

Find A-Roid's cousin Yuri Sucart.

Whatever it takes.

"Bigger and stronger," was coach Craig MacTavish's analysis of what was the difference between the Edmonton Oilers and the Columbus Blue Jackets last night as the home town team was booed out of the building again in losing a 1-0 game they couldn't afford to lose in the insane set of standings in the NHL's Western Conference as the season heads down the homestretch.

Asked if he was making a bit of a request for management to make his team bigger and stronger in Wednesday's trade deadline dealing, MacTavish said he's not even thinking about that.

So, Grow, Oilers, Grow.

If you can't get bigger, play bigger.

The saddest thing about what we watched last night was that the Oilers wasted just a Goliath of game in goal by Dwayne Roloson.

Roli The Goalie wouldn't say he played maybe his best game of the season and that his teammates didn't do a damn thing in front of him.

"This is a team sport. We win as a team and we lose as a team," he said.

He wouldn't say it. But others would.

"Roli played awesome and we were beaten in every battle. That game was there for us," said Sheldon Souray.

"We knew this was a game which was going to come down to those battles. We didn't step up and win the battles. They out-battled us to a lot of loose pucks. That's been our Achilles heel all season. In games like this we don't win the battles."

MacTavish said it was, indeed the biggest crime of the night.

"Roli played outstanding. He was the reason we were still in the game 0-0 into the third period. We've done it before to him, too. It reminded me of the 0-0 game against Boston we lost in overtime. He was great tonight."

The 39-year-old netminder who started this season essentially as excess baggage, has now started the last 17 games and during that span has been the best player on the hockey club other than Ales Hemsky, who barely touched the puck last night.

Roloson, with only a year left on a rather pricey contract, has turned into one of the best stories of this NHL season. But good stories have to have a good ending. And there isn't going to be a good ending - like there was the last time Roloson had a run like this and took the Oilers to the Stanley Cup final - if there are many more chapters like that one.

Last night just about everybody else looked like excess baggage - which is not a good look five days before the trade deadline. Roloson stood on his head while his teammates more or less stood around watching him.

The Oilers were outshot 17-4 in the second period. MacTavish said there was only one way to size this one up.

"They forced the game to the walls and we didn't win many battles," he said. "They looked bigger and stronger than we were. When you get the game to the walls you have to make plays through traffic and we didn't do that and that's why we lost.

"When you are out-sized in a one-on-on battle, you have to do it with support. You need to get guys in there to outnumber their size difference and try to create sometime to turn a one-on-one battle to a two-on-one battle. We got watching too much. We have to get more involved.

"They were bigger and stronger than us and we had a hard time handling the forecheck. They were just bigger and stronger than us tonight."

Grow, Oilers, Grow!

TERRY.JONES@SUNMEDIA.CA


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