SUN Hockey Pool

Oilers playing desperate

TERRY JONES, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:12 AM ET

If you hadn't seen a set of standings since Feb. 1 and had no idea of the various controversies around town this past week, you would have thought all was well.

There was an energy in Rexall Place seldom seen this season building up after a terrific tilt against the San Jose Sharks Thursday night.

The Oilers jumped on the Vancouver Canucks for a rare early goal 27 seconds into the game and rode it to a 5-3 win despite being outshot 46-25, including 23-8 in the second period.

Dwayne Roloson was yet again outstanding as he made Roberto Luongo's 30th birthday something less than a party.

HARD TO SELL

It's hard to sell yourself that the Oilers finally winning one down the stretch and finally winning one at home is going to suddenly turn this all around and put them into the playoffs.

Especially the way it worked on the out-of-town scoreboards, with Anaheim and Nashville winning and St. Louis getting an overtime loser point.

"It just feels good to win a game and get some smiles on the faces around here," said captain Ethan Moreau.

"We just want those last two games (against Calgary next Friday and Saturday) to mean something. This win is more for our psyche than anything."

It's one of those nights, at this stage of the season, when you compete and get a result.

Then, you look back at all those games along the way when you didn't compete and didn't get a result, especially at home where the Oilers didn't show up with enough to turn on the electricity with the crowd like they did in the last two.

And there have to be a few Oilers thinking today how they could have been positioned, like Vancouver, going into the playoffs.

Contrast the Canucks and the Oilers since Feb. 1.

Back on that date Vancouver sat 11th in the NHL West standings. On that day, the Edmonton Oilers were listed in sixth.

The Oilers, who are now the team in 11th place, were down to a 2.4% chance of making the playoffs prior to last night's game according to Sports Club Stats analysis.

Vancouver went into the game tied for the division lead, having clinched a playoff position Thursday night and should be considered Canada's best chance to end the 16-year residence of the Stanley Cup in the United States.

The Oilers, when the season started, were considered a contender to finish first in the division. The Canucks were considered iffy to make the playoffs. The Las Vegas pre-season odds on the Oilers winning the Stanley Cup were 25-to-1 and the Canucks 35-to-1.

So what happened?

WINNING AT HOME

Vancouver started winning at home. Edmonton didn't.

The two teams you watched last night went into the game having won 20 games on the road this year.

The Oilers are the only team in the league with 20 away wins not in possession of a playoff position.

Back on Feb. 1, the Vancouver Canucks were 11-11-1-3 at home. Now they're 22-11-1-4.

They've doubled their win total.

They've gone 20-6-1 down the stretch.

The Oilers, on Feb. 1, had 12 wins. Going into last night they'd won the grand total of four games at home since.

After setting a team record for most consecutive home losses with 10 straight, the Canucks won 11 in a row at home and hadn't lost a home game since they stopped the streak until they lost in overtime to the Anaheim Ducks Thursday.

The Oilers, on the other hand, went from bad to worse. On Feb. 1 the Oilers had won as many at home as they'd lost.

Now they have five more losses at home than wins including the four-game home losing streak they took into last night's game with two wins in their last eight at home.

Talk all you want about the 28th place penalty killing, the 24th place faceoffs and the 21st place power play, if the Oilers had come out of their most-well-appointed-dressing-room-in-all-of-pro-sports and competed every night from the opening faceoff, they still could have made the playoffs.

Like they did last night.

TERRY.JONES@SUNMEDIA.CA

THE GREAT RACE

WESTERN CONFERENCE

GP Pts

6. Columbus 78 89

7. Anaheim 79 88

8. Nashville 79 86

9. St. Louis 79 86

10. Minnesota 78 83

11. Edmonton 79 83


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