Under pressure

Funny thing how expectations work. When there are none, you get rolls like the Edmonton Oilers fashioned in their final 20 games last season as they went 14-5-1 and looked like the 1957 Montreal Canadiens doing it.

Crank up the pressure, and you get what we have now — a team that seems tighter than a drum and will lurch into Rexall Place to face the St. Louis Blues Tuesday with just three wins in their last dozen games.

In the Bluenotes, the Oilers will be facing a team that began a charge into playoff contention after most pundits looked at them, turned their thumbs down and said, “No chance.” Kind of like a lot of people did after injuries ravaged last year’s edition of the Oilers. This time around, it’s the Blues, not the Oilers, who’ve got nothing to lose.

“I think it’s more the mentality of the team you’re facing,” said Craig MacTavish, asked about losses to Colorado and Atlanta that have run the Oilers losing streak to three games during what was supposed to be a soft stretch in the schedule.

“Where they’re loose and playing with very little on the line. They take some chances. They get some success because the other teams are tight.”

That, in essence, is why Sam Gagner, Robert Nilsson and Andrew Cogliano looked like the second coming of the Triple Crown Line last March and April and why the Oilers played like champs without Sheldon Souray, Shawn Horcoff, Raffi Torres and Ethan Moreau down the stretch. No expectations. No pressure. It’s a different game.

So, really, is it any surprise the Oilers aren’t going anywhere fast with the money on the table now? And, in a season in which MacTavish picked his team to contend for a Northwest Division title?

It shouldn’t be.

Ho-hum

It’s not like Ales Kotalik cost the Oilers much on trade deadline day, but in the spirit of “you get what you pay for,” Kotalik hasn’t turned a wheel in five games since coming over from Buffalo.

Kotalik, a big man who plays not only small but soft, has 13 goals this season, but just five at even strength. He’ll line-up on right wing with Gagner and Nilsson against St. Louis.

When I look a Kotalik, I see a big version of German Titov, a pretty good player who did nothing in Oilers silks when they acquired him from Pittsburgh at the deadline in 2000. Titov chipped in four assists in the seven games he played with Edmonton and then, thankfully, moved on.

Kotalik big-leagued it in the dressing room today, blowing off a request for an interview by Jamie Thomas of Sportsnet.

Pardon me

I’m no fan of Dustin Penner, but if PDP is going to dress against the Blues, it shouldn’t be on the right side on the fourth line with Moreau and Kyle Brodziak.

I get looking at Patrick O’Sullivan on the first line with Horcoff and Ales Hemsky and I can see giving Kotalik a look on the right side with Gagner and Nilsson, but, at the very least, Penner should be playing the left side on the third line with Cogliano and Fernando Pisani. Instead, Liam Reddox will line up on the wing.

With Penner pencilled in with Moreau and Kyle Brodziak, Zack Stortini will get a spot in the press box. From where I sit, that’s a pretty questionable call.

Stortini manages his ice time well and he’s got a head for the game that makes him effective in limited minutes. Then again, maybe that’s just me.

By the numbers

Big numbers are great on a pay cheque, not so good on your scorecard during a round of golf.

Likewise, a big number when you combine the rankings of special teams — power play and penalty killing — isn’t great for a team’s playoff aspirations. I know, what a news bulletin that is.

Going into action Monday night, there wasn’t one team in any of the 16 conference playoff positions with a bigger number than the Oilers. Add Edmonton’s power play (ranked 23rd) and penalty killing (ranked 29th) and you get a double dose of ineptitude totalling 52.

By standings in the Western Conference listing Team/PP rank/PK rank/total: Detroit 1-26-27, San Jose 3-4-7, Calgary 15-6-21, Chicago 6-18-24, Vancouver 16-20-36, Columbus 30-15-45, Dallas 25-23-48 and Edmonton 23-29-52.

The only team with a smoking total not in a playoff position in the West is Minnesota, with 12-2-14. In the East, Buffalo is on the outside looking in despite the lowest total with 5-5-10.

— Listen to Robin Brownlee every Thursday from 4 to 6pm on Just A Game with Jason Gregor on TEAM 1260.

  • Robin Brownlee

    german titov wrote:

    Damnit, Brownlee! that was uncalled for. Some of my four assists were sweet, and I would have put a bunch more on the board if I had some freakin’ linemates.
    Let’s see how many points YOU put up between Michel Picard and Pat Falloon!
    And if I’m soft, you’re flaccid.

    Let's get this straight: you're out at centre ice cutting figure-8s, slapping your stick on the ice and yelling "I'm open" while teams pump rubber at Tommy Salo and Tom Poti is stick-checking like his life depends on it, and I'm "flaccid?" Titov, you're a putz.

  • @ BennyHammer: Green beer would be awesome – now everyone team wearing 'green' uni's like the NBA does would be very NHL-ish. Worst PR move of all time.

    Stortini is the only gu on the team wwho plays his ass off every shift, well besides Reddox I guess. Reddox doesn't play the same game as Storts though. The last couple of games Storts would have been useful.

    As much as I hate seeing Storts on the ice while we are down by a goal in the last 2 minutes, I guess he is out there because at least you would get effort out of him.

  • Deep Oil

    Rogers Sportsnet Chris Nichols seems to think that K-LOWE has a jaw dropping effect on the free agent market… this obviously reads: insane stupid money
    for finding a partner for Hemmer…..
    ______________________________________________________

    http://www.sportsnet.ca/hockey/blogs/2009/03/11/radulov-s-return/

    Hmm. Unless my Oilers wanted to gamble on him. They could use a finisher like him to play with Ales Hemsky and K-Lowe could instruct Steve Tambellini on the finer points of Jaw-Dropping Offers 101.

  • Deep Oil

    oilersseasonticketholdersince99 wrote:

    I would love to see Mac t gone next year and Penner playing on the 1st or second line lighting it up,he wont play for Mac t cause he is pissed at him if you where in Penners skates what would you do?

    Penner is being a premium to play for MacT and become a fourth liner at best……..

  • Deep Oil

    BennyHammer wrote:

    Brownlee – Green beer at Rexall tommorow? Yes or No? I need to know if I should book Wednesday off.

    Don't worry about the color, in true Northlands fashion, the beer will be warm…. not only on St. Patty's day – but everyday.

  • MacT's shelf life is coming to an end.

    His players know it(witness their consistent effort for him) and he knows it. He will gracefully call it quits at the end of the season.

    Next year Penner will have a new coach/psychologist/motivator to try and coax him out of lackadaisical play.

    Katz will be looking to put Lowe in charge of his baseball team since he has long since realized what a mess Lowe has made of the organization's players.

    We aren't going to have a winner here for ages until things change.

    The Oil season is over. These guys will play like Stanley Cup champions the last few games of the year to try and make the playoffs but like always it will be the inconsistent effort that killed their chances and their coach.

  • Travis Dakin

    german titov wrote:

    Let’s see how many points YOU put up between Michel Picard and Pat Falloon!

    Pat Faloon was the number 2 draft pick overall. Right behind Lindros. That guy was a solid pick….

  • german titov

    Damnit, Brownlee! that was uncalled for. Some of my four assists were sweet, and I would have put a bunch more on the board if I had some freakin' linemates.

    Let's see how many points YOU put up between Michel Picard and Pat Falloon!

    And if I'm soft, you're flaccid.

  • Stortini manages his ice time well and he’s got a head for the game that makes him effective in limited minutes. Then again, maybe that’s just me.

    It's not just you. I don't know how this guy gets a seat in the pressbox.

  • Hopefully tomorrow night Patty O'Sullivan will have found his lucky charms and will have shared them with his team members…we need some goals and some good bounces.

    I wanna see the Oilers deliver a quick and decisive leprechaun kick right to the blarney stones of the St. Louis Blues and put up a big fat W tomorrow night.

    This is it! Toim to foight loik de Oirish!

    GOILERS!

    (fmnf)

  • Ogden Brother

    oilersseasonticketholdersince99 wrote:

    I would love to see Mac t gone next year and Penner playing on the 1st or second line lighting it up,he wont play for Mac t cause he is pissed at him if you where in Penners skates what would you do?

    I'd suck it up and do what I was paid to do… just like anyone else in real life.

  • Kevin "Lets the shot go!" Quinn

    great stuff as always Robin…I never got why MacT needed Kotalik to start on the top line with Hemmer and Horcoff

    He's never been a 1st liner and I know Hemsky was whispering into his ear about playing with his buddy but that experiment should've ended before game 1