GDB 38: Guaranteed win night

In the New York Islanders, the Edmonton Oilers will not only be facing a team at Rexall Place tonight that’s dead-last in the NHL, but an outfit that’s lost 12 straight games on the road. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, as fans have come to, ahem, understand after watching the Oilers toss out the welcome mat for road-shy homebodies like the Florida Panthers and the Ottawa Senators, the answer is “plenty.”

While the Islanders are so lousy on the road with those 12 straight losses and a record of 5-15-2 they need a note from their moms before leaving Long Island, the same was true of the Panthers, who beat the Oilers 2-0 here back on Dec. 11.

Likewise the feeble Senators, who straggled into town Dec. 30 with 12 straight losses on the road and promptly put an end to the Oilers three-game winning streak in a 3-2 decision.

Is it any wonder, then, reporters were quick to cut to the chase with coach Craig MacTavish after the morning skate today? The Oilers wouldn’t be, well, stupid enough to underestimate the 12-24-4 Islanders, would they?

Well, would they?

Talk is cheap

“Predictable question,” smiled MacTavish when Mark Connolly of the CBC asked the obvious question this morning. “We all know we’ve been down this path before.

“The margin of error, the line between winning and losing is so fine that you just have to be prepared every night. You’ve got to give your best effort every night. You look at their record. They’ve lost some games, but they’re all close games.”

As deep as the Oilers have been in Western Conference standings for most of their 37 games, it’s not like they’ve faced a lot of teams below them in the NHL pecking order.

But the Panthers and Senators were two of them — and not just teams lower in the standings, but teams there’s absolutely no reason NOT to beat for fun. The injury riddled Islanders, even with former Oilers Doug Weight, Bill Guerin and Mike Comrie looking to shove it high and tight to their old team, are one of those clubs.

So, after pissing away four points they might well need on the way to winning the Northwest Division title, you’d think MacTavish’s men would be blowing snot bubbles and ready to rumble tonight, no?

“We’ve got another big challenge here tonight and another team we can’t take lightly just because they’re not up there in the standings,” said Sheldon Souray.

“We’re not going to overlook this game, for sure. It’s going to be another challenge for us.”

History lesson

If the Oilers have a fatal flaw — one that’s bitten them more than once in the last decade during their annual quest for sixth, seventh or eighth place in the conference — it’s that they’ve failed to bank points that have to be automatic. These are two of them.

Last season, the Oilers went 14-5-1 in their final 20 games and still missed the post-season by three points. I can think of at least six points they had no business not getting. Do the math.

Every team, even the good ones, phone it in once in awhile and give away points. The Detroit Red Wings can get away with it once in awhile. The Oilers? Not so much. They don’t have that margin for error — especially with Ales Hemsky out with a concussion and Shawn Horcoff questionable with back spasms.

“We need to come out with a lot of focus and a lot of energy,” said Sam Gagner. “Hopefully, if we can do that, we can come out with the two points.”

What could possibly go wrong?

  • RobinB

    @ Deep Oil:
    Just stop.
    Like taking a run at your best friend's wife, using a Ronco Flow-Bee to cut your hair or getting shat-faced and betting the mortgage money on a hand of blackjack when you're already $4,000 down because you're convinced your luck HAS to change, it's a BAD idea. Let it go, and stop trying to justify it.

  • Deep Oil

    @ RobinB:Connection is the buyout and next contract exceeding the actual contract – Bertuzzi got a raise this year afte the Burk do over – theoretical – bottom line if Avery is SO BAD – why is he hanging with his NY RANGER former mates on NYE at the BUNGALOW 8 – he just needs an ass whipping like MESS would intimidate a player – it is the captain's fault for a player spoiling the room – if a player disrespects the team – it is the captains responsibility to resolve by force or reason – look at Crosby and his temper tantrum (on ice) – something is definitely wrong there and we keep hearing that there are 2 camps in the OIL dressing room….. bring it on master B.

  • Milli

    Deep Oil wrote:

    Didnt the Sens have a 12 game losing record on the road and the Oil turtled in their own barn….. need to be physical for more than one period – need Penner to drop an Islander, need Cole to win the races to the puck, need Moreau to hit, Stortini not to hug and some shots that are scoring chances vs shots on net – get dirty drive to the net – need the oil to be hated that hasn’t been the MO for years – when was the last time an Oiler was hated – grit, bump, grind, score – sounds like a Burke formula that works – this is our house – are they going to defend or get bitch slapped like a home invasion – bottom line is I would take Avery (not joking) after his contract is bought out – and Tootoo for that disturber role – look at SJ with Claude Lemieux and experience. Maybe Tikkanen is thinking about an comeback – place a player in front and let the Souray slappers take aim…..Ryan Smyth was grit and good for 25 goals maybe 30 if healthy – need to replace the dirty goals that are not fun to score….

    Damn dude, you hit it all!!! Couldn't agree more!!!!

  • Deep Oil

    @ JackBauer: Yes – but the oil beat them – so does that mean that they are on the downslide again – this is more about injuries and goaltender with head games – how many OIL hated!!!!! TIKKANEN and they did not suspend him – they just shaved his head and then traded his ass when he showed up at practise in another teams jersey…… cheers.

  • RobinB

    @ Deep Oil:
    Avery hit the lottery with his last contract, even at the buy-out figure. What's he playing for now? Pride? Love of the game? Why should he change a bit? He's rather hang out with fashion industry types wearing puffy shirts than dedicate himself to playing hockey.

    I'm not going to post off-the-record comments from players and former teammates here just to prove a point, but I've never heard anything close to the contempt in which Avery is held by his former teammates, and I've been around forever and there's been some real A-holes in the league.

    Why bring Bertuzzi into it? His downward spiral came because of an on-ice incident. There's no connection. Avery is NOT worth the gamble at any cost, no matter how cheap he comes. Believe it not.

  • Deep Oil

    We should really collect a apology gift for Mike Comrie – the second most hated oiler for doing nothing wrong by not resigning as a RFA in Edmonton (AS LOWE SIGNS NILLSON, HORCOFF, PENNER, PISANI, ROLLIE(not bad) FOR BOATLOADS – Gregor LOL says that Doug Weight has no problem coming to Edmonton as the fans are focussed on the bad boys…. maybe an apology from Lowe for embarrassing a home town boy for wanting to play outside the fishbowl for a 0.500 hockey team – unfortunately – he is now with the bottom dwellers of Wang chung…- hopefully he will get traded to the Rangers at the deadline – note to Don Metz – no hillary duff songs tonight OK

  • @ Deep Oil:

    Well I think Turco was one of the top players on that team most bothered by Avery. His quotes in regards to Avery were pretty potent. That says Sean boy bothered him. Now Avery is gone, Turco is playing better? Dallas is playing better?

  • Deep Oil

    @ JackBauer: I see at team with better goaltending at the moment (could leave anytime) – Turco was in a red light district – poor save percentage prior to the AVERY incident – if a goaltender is playing bad because one of his teammates -then the problem is deeper than that teammate…. right now he is back to a POOR .882 with a 5.7mm salary (OUCH)
    with all the injuries – could anyone expect the Stars to be in playoff contention – what is the oilers excuse ?

  • Deep Oil

    @ RobinB:Is it not fair that a tiger can change his stripes – with the shock – lottery of having your contract being bought out (SEE BERTUZZI – PAY RAISE when you add the buyout of DUCKS and FLAMES)- Avery might conform by staying in the same hotel, interacting with teamates (see page 6 ny post – http://www.nypost.com/seven/01052009/gossip/pagesix/avery_at_large_147264.htm) – bottom line when the gravy train is off the tracks – you shape up – otherwise you end up playing in the KHL surrounded by sex starved Russian women (EMERY) – http://www.russianlovematch.com – oil are soft and with Penner showing a knockout rag doll – I am hoping that the OIL learn that being bad can be GOOD

  • Gooilerz!!

    fine then, 2a and 2b, cogs line, and the gagner-cole line. With Pouliot back my guess is he will centre the third line and brule takes his spot with cole and gagner? Leaving reddox, pouliot and moreau, which doesnt sound too bad.

  • Gooilerz!!

    Were still talking about Avery?
    With Scorecoff possibly out, it seems like a good time to move Cogliano up to the dilapidated first line. I assume the Islanders first line doesnt pack as much of a punch as most first lines do, so we could even throw Nilsson up there too on his off wing.

  • Ssseth

    If we loose tonight, we'll beat SJ on Friday. If we win tonight, we'll loose to SJ on Friday. So goes Oil karma.

    I swear it must be a feng shui thing in MacT's office. It's been almost half the season and somehow this has been overlooked? C'mon, get Katz' interior decorator in there pronto!

  • RobinB

    @ Deep Oil:
    I agree with the grit sentiment and I'd take Tootoo in a second, but clearly, you have no idea how poisonous, devisive and debilitating Avery is to a dressing room. Trust me on this one.

  • Deep Oil

    Didnt the Sens have a 12 game losing record on the road and the Oil turtled in their own barn….. need to be physical for more than one period – need Penner to drop an Islander, need Cole to win the races to the puck, need Moreau to hit, Stortini not to hug and some shots that are scoring chances vs shots on net – get dirty drive to the net – need the oil to be hated that hasn't been the MO for years – when was the last time an Oiler was hated – grit, bump, grind, score – sounds like a Burke formula that works – this is our house – are they going to defend or get bitch slapped like a home invasion – bottom line is I would take Avery (not joking) after his contract is bought out – and Tootoo for that disturber role – look at SJ with Claude Lemieux and experience. Maybe Tikkanen is thinking about an comeback – place a player in front and let the Souray slappers take aim…..Ryan Smyth was grit and good for 25 goals maybe 30 if healthy – need to replace the dirty goals that are not fun to score….