Quinn trying to figure out his struggling Oilers

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:44 PM ET

EDMONTON — Watching his Oilers play, Pat Quinn must feel like one of those helpless drones who park themselves in front of a slot machine all day.

Seven... seven... lemon.

Seven... seven... lemon.

They tantalize and tease, give him all kinds of false hope, and at the end of the day the Oilers seem a lot like those one-armed bandits - programmed to lose.

The first two periods against Washington on Saturday were pure sevens, but the third period lemon left them so far in debt they’ve been reduced to tonight’s Battle in the Basement against the St. Louis Blues.

Loser is 15th in the West.

How does a team that’s good enough to lead for long stretches against some of the best clubs in the NHL - San Jose, Calgary, Los Angeles, Washington and Nashville - find itself sleeping in the gutter, starring in hockey’s version of Bum Fights.

“It’s inconsistency,” defenceman Steve Staios sighed after the deflating loss to Washington. “There’s letdowns. We prepare well we get ready to play, we do a lot of good things and we seem to have let downs.

“The most disappointing thing is we know that we can play at a high level, we just haven’t been able to sustain it for 60 minutes.”

It’s incredible the number or points the Oilers have given away with late breakdowns and collapses this season.

They had San Jose down and out, had Calgary beaten, twice, were neck and neck with the Kings, twice. Add the seven or eight points they let get away in those games to their total and they’re right in the playoff mix.

“Mechanics and systems and all those things (are important),” said Quinn. “But on the mental side, if you abandon or stop playing or get scared of the result or who you’re playing against, show too much respect, that’s as bad, and as big a battle as you can have. That’s where we are.

“We’ve played good teams and have not been able to figure out how to keep what we had.”

It’s not like you can just dismiss them as chokers. The Oilers have fought back from behind on a lot of nights, too, like the five-goal rally in St. Louis, or the comeback victories in Dallas, Florida and Tampa that preceded it.

They play well enough to make you think there might really be something worth building around, but two nights later, or 20 minutes later in some cases, you’re covered in lemon juice and ready to give up on them for good.

“Clearly we’re still trying to figure it out,” said Quinn. “Here’s a game we probably should have had a better result. That’s why the emotions are where they are now.”

Low, like 14th or 15th in the West low.

“We know they’re a top team, but we played well enough in the first 40 that if we could have sustained it we would have been winners,” said Staios. “We sort of let off the gas and they started to take over.”

Stage fright?

“Two goals turns it nto a tie game and you see them coming on, you get players who react in different fashions,” said Quinn. “I don’t know if they were awestruck or what, but we had some guys who had some really tough nights. If we’re going to win hockey games we’re going to need everybody. We had four or five guys who were off their games. We can’t beat Ponka City playing that way.”

Or St. Louis.

“We’re at a point now where we have to have some lessons stick with us,” said Quinn, who’s club should have a PhD in painful lessons by now. “They’re hard to swallow but we have to come back and keep working on it. We’re going to get there, but boy, the pain that’s going along with it is not a likeable thing.”

ROBERT.TYCHKOWSKI@SUNMEDIA.CA


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