March 21 2008 08:53AM
And on the first full day of spring, golf season arrived for the Edmonton Oilers... OK, so as not to be a nattering nabob of negativity and for argument's sake, let's say the Edmonton Oilers aren't done, finished and over after a 4-1 loss to the Vancouver Canucks.
They are, however, out of options where their faint playoff hopes are concerned. Forget the final two chapters of the Battle of Alberta with Calgary, seven points up in the standings. Even with a sweep, they won't catch the Flames. The Canucks are gonzo, too.
Colorado, 2-1 losers in the City of Cattle Thursday and five points up with seven games to play, is the only option remaining if the Oilers are to avoid missing the playoffs for the second straight season.
"We take focus on another team in here on Saturday," coach Craig MacTavish said. "Colorado gets beat down in Calgary, Nashville gets beat, so it's not as good a scenario as what we would have hoped and had in our power to create, but didn't."
The Avs come calling at Rexall Place for a Saturday matinee and the teams meet again next Friday in Denver. The Oilers need a sweep, and at least four wins in their other five games, or they'll have to endure the indignity of another early garbage bag day and playing on temporary greens.
That's a tall order given the 10–2 roll that died on Roberto Luongo's doorstep. Faint hope is better than none at all, but after playing their butts off for a month and scratching back into contention, Thursday was a kick in the groin—a loss that will take the starch out of the kids and make the veterans feel old. The drain of squeezing a double-digit deficit down to five points with next-to-no margin for error, then coming up short, will do that.
"There's definitely a Plan B," insists MacTavish. "There's another scenario. Now, we get the opportunity. We've got to sweep somebody. Now, we take focus on Colorado.
"We try to get them in here on Saturday and beat them and then play well enough to give ourselves another opportunity when we go down to Colorado."
So, one last push. For all the resilience and refusal to quit this team has shown, I wouldn't be surprised if the grind of the stretch, of a month spent skating uphill, hits home against the Avs.
Those of us who wrote the Oilers off weeks ago were mistaken. That's a testament to the exuberance of kids like Sam Gagner, Andrew Cogliano and Robert Nilsson and the tenacious will of veterans like Steve Staios, Fernando Pisani and Ales Hemsky. But now?
Spring is here. No mulligan.
10 POINTS THAT GOT AWAY
Wins the Oilers had to have but don't:
- Oct. 27: 4-1 loss in Los Angeles.
- Dec. 7: 4-3 loss to St. Louis.
- Jan. 15: 3-1 loss to Los Angeles.
- Jan. 22: 4-3 loss in Tampa Bay.
- March 4: 5-1 loss to Nashville.
—Listen to Robin Brownlee every Thursday from 4 to 5pm on Total Sports with Bob Stauffer on Team 1260.