January 06 2009 07:53AM
I laughed out loud when Sportsnet play-by-play man Kevin Quinn tipped us off during the third period of the Edmonton Oilers life-and-death struggle with the New York Islanders that "It doesn't get any easier on this homestand."
No, Kevin, it doesn't get any easier -- the Islanders are the laughing stocks of the NHL. They arrived at Rexall Place Monday having lost 12 straight games on the road and sitting dead-last in NHL overall standings.
Then, they lost captain and leading scorer Doug Weight during the morning skate. So, no, it really doesn't get any easier. Of course, that's not exactly what Quinn meant.
So how is it that the Oilers, who already gassed two points in losses to the hopeless Florida Panthers and inept Ottawa Senators, needed fluke goals by Kyle Brodziak and Jason Strudwick in the second period on the way to a 3-2 win to avoid making it three times they've soiled the sheets?
Because this is a team, regardless of post-game spin, that has no clue about the intensity and fortitude needed to be a consistent winner and a legitimate playoff contender in the Western Conference.
"They played as good as anybody against us," coach Craig MacTavish said after his team pulled a fast one. "Especially early. They put a lot of pressure on us and we didn't handle the pressure very well."
You'd think after blowing off those games against the Panthers and sad-sack Senators, who also came to town with 12 straight road losses before beating the Oilers 3-2 Dec. 30, MacT's men would have been motivated to come out like a house on fire against the Islanders.
But, down 2-0, they were in danger of falling back to .500 at home until they got lucky -- Brodziak banked a puck off Brendan Witt's skate behind Joey MacDonald and Strudwick made it 2-2 when Zack Stortini's pass bounced in off his skate.
Good for the fourth-liners, who've carried more than their fair share of the workload in recent games, but getting outplayed early before winning it on Andrew Cogliano's 12th goal of the season is inexcusable.
The Oilers talked the talk in the morning, but they damn sure didn't walk the walk when the puck dropped.
Not good enough
Serve up the same mistake-filled slop against the Vancouver Canucks Wednesday or the San Jose Sharks Friday and the 19-16-3 Oilers will be back under .500 at home.
Hell, try that against anybody but the feeble Islanders and it's a loss. Playing down to the level of inferior competition as the Oilers too often do is not the sign of a team ready to contend.
"We collected ourselves after the first period and played a pretty workmanlike second and third," offered MacTavish.
"We had a line that was playing a real simple game that got a lot done tonight. That's a good lesson for everybody. It doesn't have to be pretty all the time."
This is not a good team. Tell yourself otherwise if you must, but be prepared to be disappointed.