EDMONTON - Thud. Thunk. Clunk. Plop. Fizz. Whoosh. Hiss. Pfttthhh.
It was impossible to hear the sounds emanating from Rexall Place last night and come to any other conclusion than the Edmonton Oilers returned to earth last night.
You could almost hear the sound of “Haaaaarrruga! Haaaarrruga! Dive! Dive! Dive!”
Look out below. The predicted plunge to the nether regions of the NHL standings appears to be happening at this very moment.
It’s hard not to see Thursday night as the turning point south, the night the air came out of their balloon and the game they were shot out of the sky.
Maybe that’s not fair considering that Nikolai Khabibulin chose this game to lay his first egg in the Oilers crease this season.
Khabibulin, who staked Edmonton to a turn-the-town-on start to the season, gave up goals on the first two shots and another at the end of the first period to give the Ottawa Senators a 3-0 lead despite the Oilers having more chances and more shots.
But the final score was 5-2.
And 5-2 is 5-2.
Giving up five goals on the first 11 shots is giving up five goals on the first 11 shots.
“After the first seven or eight minutes there wasn’t much compete. We just faded away,” said captain Shawn Horcoff.
“We started really well,” said Taylor Hall. “Then all of a sudden we gave up on the game plan. When they scored two goals it was almost like our spirits went down.
“It was like after they scored those two goals we said, ‘Screw it,’ and decided to follow our own game plans.
“There are holes in our game we need to fix and fix fast. Losing streaks can define you,” added Hall.
“We picked the wrong game to do it,” admitted Jordan Eberle. “That was a missed opportunity. We killed ourselves. Good teams stick with game plans. We were our own worst enemy tonight.”
Four consecutive losses is four consecutive losses.
Maybe you could write this as just another Edmonton team which lost their first game back from the rodeo road trip? But they got back Sunday night. This was Thursday.
“We had enough time to get over it and go over video and see what was wrong in our last couple games,” said Eberle.
To lose Cam Barker for three months due to injury in the morning news, have Andy Sutton pull a groin in the warm-up to leave them with five defencemen to start the game and then Corey Potter go down with an ankle injury was the only valid excuse they had.
You expected Tom Renney to turn into Pat Quinn and say they not only sucked the hind banana this night but the front banana and the side bananas, too.
But he didn’t.
“We really weren’t rewarded for a good start. A couple odd-man situations coming back ended up in the back of our net. We had a good start to the game and then ‘kaput’,” he said, finding his own word to join the list.
Renney did say that “this is an opportunity for some soul searching.”
And he did admit that when it came to compete “a number of guys were taking turns,” without mentioning Alex Hemsky specifically.
There’s a statistic which suggests that about 80% of the teams in a playoff position by the Grey Cup remain there through to the end of the season. The Oilers have been breathing the rare air with those top teams all season until the air came out of their tires with a fourth straight loss which could turn into five, six, seven ...
Look at the standings this morning.
They’re no longer up there.
The Grey Cup is a week Sunday.
At the end of Renney’s post game press conference, there seemed to me to be only one question that needed to be asked.
“Why are you so calm?” I queried.
“I’ve been through this. I was here last year. It’s a tough part of the game, I understand that.
“Our guys know how we are doing inside there and they need support. They need to know the coaches are with them and haven’t abandoned them.
“We are going to get mad here and there and kick some asses once in a while. But it doesn’t mean don’t support our team and don’t continue to nurture them. There is a lot of hockey to play.
“This is the fun part of coaching. You have to find ways to extract out of your team what you can, to play to their potential and find ways to win. That’s kind of fun.”
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