SUN Hockey Pool

Quinn demands answers

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 10:56 AM ET

It almost sounds like good news when you suggest that the slumping Oilers have been playing pretty well five-on-five lately.

It's just that their special teams are a mess.

Almost.

Then you realize that being good everywhere except on the power play and penalty kill is like saying "He's a really, really good pilot; he's just not very good at landings."

In today's NHL, special teams are everything. And when they don't work, you're headed for a train wreck.

Er, plane crash.

But you don't have to search the smouldering ruins of 15th place for a little black box to figure out why the Oilers are in a tailspin.

The penalty kill is junk -- and it's been that way all year (27th in the NHL).

And the power play, which used to be pretty good, is sinking fast as well, scoring just twice in its last 27 chances.

Until they get this sorted out, nothing else matters.

"We competed and played hard, but you're going to win less than 10% of your games if you don't improve your special teams," said Ethan Moreau, who hopes the Oilers have things sorted out before tonight's visit by the Calgary Line Jumpers.

"We've gone through stretches where we've been good on both -- we have to get back to that.

"Guys have to realize they have a pretty good opportunity to be on either unit, and if we're not going to execute we'll continue to lose games that we've played well in."

The pair of power play goals Vancouver scored 18 seconds apart on Saturday were the ninth and 10th odd-man tallies against Edmonton in the last nine games.

By contrast, the Oilers have only scored a power-play goal in two of their last 11 games.

"We just can't allow that many goals on the PK and expect to win and we definitely have to start scoring some on the power play," said Ladislav Smid.

"It's frustrating, especially on the PK because there's a better chance that you're going to kill the penalty than you are going to score a power play goal.

"We have to do a better job of boxing them out and being more aware around our net."

Making things even more difficult for Edmonton is that today's technology means that the next team on the schedule simply looks at what worked for the last team on the schedule and copies it. Until the Oilers change or adapt, opponents will continue exploiting the same weaknesses.

"We're playing some teams that are pressing us a little more quickly (on the power play) than in the past," said head coach Pat Quinn.

"Our guys haven't responded well to the quickness. We want to hold onto it, we think we've got time, and it's not there. We haven't made the mental transition to beat a forceful penalty kill."

That's why yesterday's practice was all about special teams. Until they get this sorted out, nothing else matters.

"We still keep hammering about teamwork and team play," said Quinn.

"We know what will work, we just have to do it. Execution is what counts. We do it right for a while, then when bad things happen, our mental stability, toughness, if you will, isn't there to ride through it. And the dependence upon each other hasn't been built yet."

Moreau agrees.

"That desperation has to play out on our power play and our penalty kill," said the captain. "One power-play goal, one blocked shot or one big save can mean turning this around into another winning streak.

"Our urgency has to be shown when it matters most, and that's when we're up a man or down a man."

ROBERT.TYCHKOWSKI@SUNMEDIA.CA


Videos

Photos