Oilers gas pains
ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, QMI Agency
|Oilers teammates celebrate a goal against the Coyotes at Jobing.com Arena in Glendale, Ariz., Nov. 5, 2011. (RICK SCUTERI/Reuters)
MONTREAL - Fans in Edmonton must feel like the guy with a heart attack history every time he gets a gas pain: “Was that the chili dog I ate between breakfast and lunch ... or is this the big one?”
When a hockey team whose last two seasons can best be described as a massive coronary suddenly goes on a six-game win streak and vaults to the top of the Western Conference standings, every little stumble feels like that gas pain.
Like Saturday’s 4-2 attention getter in Phoenix, for example.
The Oilers lost, didn’t look that good doing it, and still have four tough games left on their 12-day road trip.
So, as a legion of orange and blue fans reach for their chest and wonder if it was something they ate, or something much, much worse, the Oilers roll into Montreal looking to turn the most storied franchise in sports (give or take the Yankees), into their own personal Alka Seltzer.
Plop, plop, fizz, fizz, beating the Habs shows how real they is.
“I think we’ve all kind of heard the talk that we’re bound to fall again, that we’re bound to get kicked back to the curb,” said sophomore winger Taylor Hall, after the swarm of Montreal media finally cleared from his around his dressing room stall. “We don’t want that to happen.”
When you’ve lost as long and as badly as the Oilers have, there is reason for skepticism. And there is plenty of it among their fans and doubters alike. It’s like some people are almost expecting something to go wrong.
Truth be told, the Oilers used to feel that way, too. They were a fragile lot and losing one game usually meant they’d be losing three or four more.
Not anymore, said Hall. He wants to assure Edmonton that the Oilers are more than a house of cards, that the first 12 games weren’t a fluke and that one bad effort isn’t the first stop on a milk-run back to the basement.
“We know what we have in this room,” he said. “You don’t win six in a row by chance. We’re a different team this year. We have a lot of belief in each other that we’re going to do something special.”
But they do have that heart attack history, back-to-back 30th place finishes, so it might take a little more than 13 games to make people forget about the previous 164.
The Oilers know they still have a lot to prove, to themselves as well as everyone else.
“All the good teams are consistent night after night after night,” said head coach Tom Renney. “If not on an individual basis, different guys rise every night to the occasion. We have to get ourselves to that point — where we can sustain a good start to a game, sustain a good stretch of games. We have to correct that (losing streak) right away.”
By righting their ship on the road, in a tough building against a tough opponent.
“We don’t want to be a team that’s streaky, we want to be consistent,” said Jordan Eberle. “All of the great teams are consistent — if they lose one they come back with a great effort and win the next one. We have to be a lot better than we were last game.”
Only four times last season were the Oilers able to stop the bleeding at one game, and 12 times a first loss led to another, and usually a lot more after that.
“If you don’t lose two in a row very often, it’s a sign that you’re probably going to make the playoffs and do some damage,” said Hall. “We know that last game wasn’t our best and we have a chance to prove we can be better. There’s not a better building to do that in than Montreal.”