EDMONTON - There is a difference between being a loser and losing a few hockey games
Tom Renney says his Oilers are still on the right side of that very important line after three defeats and a mutt-ugly win in their last four starts.
“Losses are going to happen, every team in this league goes through stretches where they lose a few,” said the Edmonton head coach, upset but not unnerved after back-to-back losses in Boston and Detroit. “What we have to do is make sure we minimize that. Stay true to ourselves and our identity and not dwell on the losses. We have to gut it out, every team does.
“The sooner were able to get our heads around that ... the better off we’ll be.”
After a rip-roaring start, going 8-3 with eight of their first 11 at home, it seems the farther the Oilers stray from Rexall Place the farther they stray from the things that made them the surprise of the NHL in October.
But when you’re playing a pair of championship-calibre teams near the end of a six-game trip, maybe a rough patch is to be expected.
Not accepted, but expected.
“I think the circumstances are pretty unique: West Coast to East Coast, formidable teams, formidable buildings,” said Renney. “I’m OK with this (sag) as long as we gut it out and work hard. We have to suck it up and go, man up and go after our next opponent.
“Its not always going to be easy and you have to be prepared to put out what you have every night, continue to play with enthusiasm and vigor because when they do that they’re very effective. Dont take a back seat to anybody. Assert your will on people and good things will happen.
“Consistency for everyone on our team right now is something we have to pursue.”
Their most consistent player, give or take Ryan Smyth, is Nikolai Khabibulin. He’s noticed a subtle difference in the team, too.
“The last couple of games it seems like we were a little bit out of sync, maybe a half a step behind here or there,” he said, adding these aren’t incurable flaws. “Everything is correctable if you want to correct it and it seems like we want to correct it.”
The sooner the better. The Oilers are a team that needs confidence and rides on emotion — two qualities that are eroded by a losing streak. A club’s psychological state can be a self-perpetuating entity, win or lose.
“Our confidence is still there, we just have to play a little smarter, avoid those turnovers because they’re killing us right now,” said defenceman Ladislav Smid, who’s well aware there could be more disappoinment on the horizon with the Chicago Blackhawks waiting for then at the United Center Sunday,
“Its a tough schedule but we have to deal with it. Chicago is not going to be easy, theyre pretty much on fire right now.”
Yet, despite all that’s happened in the last week, the Oilers are still only one win away from a .500 trip which, given it’s length and quality, would be huge.
“We really want to finish the road trip off .500,” said Taylor Hall. “If we do, that would be a successful road trip considering the teams we’ve played.”
As much as the points, Halls says Edmonton needs to re-adjust the way its playing.
“We want to get our game going the right way, the way we were playing when we were on our win streak,” he said of the six-in-a-row that preceeded the drop. “That game in LA (3-0), we played the best we could. We did everything we could to win. We need to get back to playing that way. Its pretty simple hockey but the last couple of games haven’t been that way.”