Let’s face it, the Oilers playoff hopes are slim. Yes, I know it sucks. Oiler fans are frustrated with what is looking like another year of non-playoff action at Rexall. I don’t need to get into all the percentages of the team making it. You all know those already.
Chasing from behind late in the season is very hard to do. Every point you miss out on adding to your total seems like a killer. All the three-point games other teams play in can feel like a knife through your playoff heart! Making up serious ground the last section of the season is nearly impossible.
I have been in playoff races where our team was in the playoffs looking to hold onto a spot. I have also been in race where we were trying to make up ground. The advantage is always with the team over the line, not the one chasing.
Back in 2005-2006 I was playing with the New York Rangers. All the experts picked us to finish last. We caught many teams by surprise and finished in sixth place that year.
We were very good early but could not win to save our lives over the last quarter of the season; the Olympics really took a lot out of our guys who went. Henrik Lundqvist was a rookie that year. He was great for us but he ran out of juice and it really hurt our team.
We had built up such a big point total early that we were able to run on fumes and still get into the playoffs. We held down third place in the conference until the New Jersey Devils got hot and ran off eleven straight wins! We lost our last five and they overtook us for third in the conference.
We ended up playing them in the playoffs. They ran our show and we were done in four straight. Momentum is huge heading into the playoffs. You cannot just turn on the switch and get after it, unless of course you are the LA Kings from last year.
Being in a playoff position is huge this time of the year. As a team you feel better about where you are at. You know you literally hold your own destiny in your hands. Even though we really struggled to win games down the stretch that year in New York we knew we were a playoff team.
A few years earlier in the 1999-2000 season, I was fighting to get into the playoffs with the Vancouver Canucks. We had a younger group of players with guys like Bertuzzi, Naslund and Morrison.
We had a slow start but really started to find our way as the season went on. Luckily we had a captain named Mark Messier. I will never forget him telling us during a team meeting to just go out and play. Don’t worry about the outside noise of the media or what other teams do. Just play and have fun.
From that point on I remember how much fun it was to come to the rink every day. We were young and trying to make up a bunch of points to get into the playoffs. That time is some of my fondest memories in hockey. Being young and just going out to play. No pressure, no one expected us to make it.
Ironically the team we could catch with two games left was the Edmonton Oilers. We needed to beat them and then win our last game versus San Jose. After the loss to us we needed the Flames to beat the Oilers. I talked to some of my buddies on the Flames team and they promised me they would give the Oilers a loss if we could beat them first.
The game between us and the Oilers was a playoff game. It was very intense. Both teams were flying. It was tied until late in the third when we committed a big turnover. My team mate Denis Pederson came around our net and threw a huge pizza right up the middle of the ice. It was intercepted. It ended up in the back of our net.
I remember us all being crushed on the bench. Denis was crying afterwards. It really was a brutal way to end such a fun run. I felt really badly for Denis, he had been a big part of us turning the year around.
The Oilers made the playoffs that year. We did make it the next year.
I will never forget that run we put together that season. We came out of nowhere and almost made it. The current Oilers are a little like that Canucks team from over ten years ago. Lots of young players trying to make an improbable run into the playoffs.
The odds of their making it are a lot less then that Canucks team’s was. If I were Ralph Krueger I wouldn’t tell them that. They can figure it out.
That year in Vancouver we were running on passion. That is it. We wanted it so badly we didn’t care what everyone else said. Sure, they were right in the end but we almost proved them wrong. One pizza killed us. I think it was pepperoni.
Let’s hear you!!!
That year in Vancouver I remember the fans really getting behind us. GM Place was rocking. There is no better feeling for a player that knowing your home rink is going to be a loud place to play your home games.
I remember the fans in New York with their chant of "Let’s go Rangers!" I loved that. I actually have the audio of that on my Ipod. It was pretty cool to hear from ice level.
I never got the chance to hear Oiler fans really go nuts. I never played a playoff game for the Oilers. I was around the city for that crazy run to game seven with Pronger, Peca and the boys. The city was on fire and the crowds were incredible.
This Oiler team needs some of that noise and enthusiasm in Rexall from tonight till the end of the season. I know, winning and excitement brings the noise from fans. Maybe just the one time the egg can come before the chicken.
LET’S GO OILERS.
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