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Monday Musings: Things can change quickly in a playoff race

The tension is rising in Oilersnation.

The lyrics to Eminem’s Lose Yourself seem fitting.

“Look, if you had, one shot, or one opportunity,
To seize everything you ever wanted, in one moment
Would you capture it, or just let it slip?”

The Oilers have 14 games to ensure they don’t let their playoff spot slip away. I still believe they will make it, but the past week has tightened some sphincters.

The Oilers are winless in a week and have dropped from second place in the Pacific to the first Wildcard spot. They are three points back of the Ducks, with a game in hand, and one point behind the red-hot Calgary Flames.

The LA Kings are seven points behind the Oilers, with a game in hand. The final 14 games should be filled with a lot of excitement, anxiety, frustration and euphoria.

The Oilers need to find ways to win games. Friday night versus Pittsburgh was the most entertaining game of the year. The Oilers played very well, and had many chances to win, but they couldn’t beat Marc-Andre Fleury. An unlucky bounce, McDavid getting his stick caught against the post then kicking the puck out of the crease, only to have it ricochet off Cam Talbot and into the goal, was one of the strangest goals I’ve seen this year.

Yesterday against Montreal, the Canadiens took the lead with five minutes remaining when Max Pacioretty’s cross-ice pass deflected off the shaft of Oscar Klefbom’s stick and into the Oilers’ net.

In tight games, sometimes the bounces go your way and sometimes they don’t. The Oilers can’t focus on that stuff. Now is not the time to feel sorry for yourself.

They must rebound with a solid effort against the 26th place Dallas Stars tomorrow night.

Oilersnation doesn’t remember what it’s like to be in a playoff race. It has been 11 years since the Oilers made the dance, and nine years since they were in the race until the final few games.

“His palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy
There’s vomit on his sweater already, mom’s spaghetti
He’s nervous, but on the surface he looks calm and ready to drop bombs”

It’s exhilarating when your team wins, and devastating when they lose. You get more upset and concerned over losses and more excited after a victory.

I’ve received a few tweets and texts saying I jinxed the Oilers when two weeks ago I said they are a lock to make the playoffs. I don’t believe my opinion impacts the out come of games, but in a playoff race people don’t always think rationally. It is great to be in a playoff race again. During the Decade of Darkness I hosted over 9600 hours of sports talk radio and wrote over 2500 articles. It became pretty tedious and repetitive discussing a bad hockey team, the draft lottery odds and potential draft picks six months before the draft.

This is much more enjoyable. The games are more entertaining to watch. The story lines, statistical analyses, out of town scoreboard and the overall feeling in the city is better. My wife asked me this morning what the Ducks victory last night means to the Oilers. She is not a diehard fan. Traci enjoys hockey, but she has sat down and watched way more games with me this year. “They are more exciting,” she said. “They are also more nerve-wracking,” she added.

I’m sure you can relate.

Yesterday’s loss to Montreal hit Oilersnation hard. In a span of three minutes you went from seeing your team leading by one to trailing by one. Things can change fast in a playoff race, and even quicker in a playoff series.

The best part about sports is the emotion that comes with it. Meaningful games invoke more passion and excitement from the players. The fans sense it and their emotion increases. Arenas are louder. Houses are busier. More people get caught up in the waves of excitement, and there is no guarantee of success. You become emotionally invested knowing full well your chances of losing are as great as watching your team win.

Fans of the Oilers haven’t felt this way in a long time, and you all handle it differently. Some remain calm. Others are emotional wrecks. Some get angry. Others remain patient, but all of you feel the same waves of anxiety and happiness, often swaying from one to the next in a matter of minutes.

“Success is my only mother*#*#ing option, failure’s not
Mom, I love you, but this trailer’s got to go
I cannot grow old in Salem’s lot
So here I go it’s my shot.
Feet, fail me not”

As we know, the Rabbit made it. He fulfilled his goal, but it wasn’t easy and it didn’t happen right away.

The Oilers have a great shot to make the playoffs, and I still believe they will, but their feet, hands and brain can’t fail them now.

They must find ways to win. They need to create their own lucky breaks. Now is not the time to tighten up.

They played great on Friday and lost in a shootout. In a playoff race, just like playoff games, the best team wins every game. And every eventual Champion faces adversity at some point.

The Oilers are facing some adversity. They went winless in three games earlier this season, but a three-game winless streak in a playoff race creates much more tension than one in November.

Tomorrow isn’t a must win, but considering the opponent and the Oilers’ spot in the standings, and the recent wins by the Kings, Ducks and Flames, it is a game the Oilers need.

The anticipation leading up to the next 14 games is what attracts many people to sports.

Emotion, whether it is excitement, nervousness or disappointment, is the foundation of being a fan.

Embrace it. I’m sure this is much more enjoyable than the apathy you’ve endured over the past decade.

The Oilers are in the thick of a playoff race. None of us know where they will finish. They could still finish in second place and have home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs for the first time since 1990. Or they could travel to San Jose, Anaheim, Calgary, Chicago or Minnesota. There is still a chance they could end up golfing, but regardless of the outcome Oilersnation is in for one hell of a emotional rollercoaster.

Buckle up. Enjoy it.

Parting Shots:

  • Leon Draisaitl has played a lot of hockey this year. He played for Germany in August as they qualified for the World Championships. Then he played on Team Europe at the World Cup of Hockey and now he’s played every game for the Oilers. Draisaitl has been in a bit of a funk of late. Fatigue could be a factor, but there is a mental battle going on as well. Draisaitl is very hard on himself and when he gets in a funk he can get down on himself. McLellan knows Draisaitl might be a bit fatigued, but he also pointed out today how Draisaitl needs to go easier on himself. “Don’t let the bad plays overshadow the good ones,” said McLellan
  • I think we can end the debate on whether Cam Talbot is fatigued. He played very well, especially on Sunday, and he stopped 65 of 69 shots. Two of the goals that beat him went in off of Oilers players. Talbot continues to play very well, and I suspect he will start the next five games, before Laurent Brossoit plays the Colorado Avalanche next Thursday.
  • Patrick Kane is making a late push for the Art Ross trophy. He has pulled to within two points of McDavid. Kane has ten goals and 13 points in his last eight games. McDavid has eight points in his last eight games and those two along with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin will make for an exciting finish to see who wins the scoring title.

Recently by Jason Gregor:

  • Hockey123

    Oilers have the fastest skater in the NHL and have some of the worst ice in the NHL. Home games should be an advantage but not for the Oilers. This is negligence.

    • Seanaconda

      Are they keeping the arena too warm for the fans ? Seems weird the ice is so bad with a new plant. Should just cool down the arena if that helps the ice people have to dress for the weather to get to the arena anyways.

  • freelancer

    Gregor busting out the Eminem, love it! It seems the Oilers can’t have all their lines working at the same time. While Nuge Lucic and Eberle are finally finding their game, Draisaitl and Maroon have been letting McDavid down. Draisaitl in particular has not looked like himself as of late. Injury or fatigue?

    I wonder if we see Puljujarvi get called up sooner than later if the team continues to struggle.

  • Hemmercules

    I let my guard down for a couple weeks, enjoying the run to the playoffs, then calgary won 100 games in a row and JQuick got healthy. Now I’m having nightly panic attacks. I feel like I should be already preparing myself for a letdown. Normally I’m not watching hockey at this time of year while dreaming of free agents and next season so I’m trying to enjoy this but I almost can’t watch the games Im so nervous half the time.

  • WhoreableGuy

    We need to worry less about Calgary and their unsustainable .970 save percentage during their streak and more on the Oilers becoming a more solid unit heading into the Playoffs.

  • Hockey123

    You build a new arena I would think ice would be at the top of of list of things to get right. You would think behind the scenes their is panic in the organization . How could Edmonton have the worst ice in the NHL? I believe this has cost Oilers some games this year. I’m a little surprised this hasn’t become a bigger issue.

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    This is the point in time where you wonder if the Oilers will revert back to the losing culture we have grown to know and hate and this could be it if the Oilers aren’t carefull. I fear for them because inevitably the Kingsame will make a season ending push to make it close. If St. Louis gets off the can and the Oilers continue to plod along we could be in serious trouble.

  • Not a First Tier Fan

    The boys will turn this around. And for the first time in a while Calgary is going to be facing up against teams that are as hungry to win as they are. These last few weeks were always going to decide things and You can bet the standings today aren’t going to be reflective of the standings mid-April.

    Meaningful March Hockey. Hell yeah!

  • Ugh… This is why I hated it when pretty much every ON writer anointed the Oilers as playoff-bound at the end of February. Yes, they could have a middling record and still make it. Yes the kings would have to go 12-3-2 or whatever to get past them, but this is the OILERS we are talking about. The team that has missed the playoffs for ten straight years and choked in numerous high-pressure situations.
    I refuse to believe it until I see it, and we shouldn’t be anointing anyone as playoff-bound until the spot has been clinched.

  • I also think they need to give 29 and 19 one more game with McDavid to see if they can regain some fire. Dr. Drai looks simply complacent out there. Trying too hard to ‘slow the game down’, but instead is just being slow and allowing the checker to close, or allowing defenders to move into his telegraphed passing lanes. Maroon has never had great passing, but he is misfiring way too much and turning the puck over at key moments.
    If the losing streak continues I might promote Looch and Ebs to the top line for a while.

  • Slipknot 8

    How is Draisaitl any more fatigued then McDavid? It’s an excuse, especially when they’ve had a 4 days off then a game, then two days off then a game, then two days off then a game. That’s more rest then at any time during the year when games are every other day.

    The biggest issue is Chiarelli not getting players at the trade deadline when his team is pushing for a playoff spot and both the PK and PP are clearly an issue.
    Face offs have been killing the Oilers and that also wasn’t addressed in any significant way and is contributing to goals against.
    If, the Oilers miss the playoffs I’d say the biggest issue was the lack of experience during meaningful games that could have been addressed and a GM not giving his team a chance to push when almost every team in the WC made upgrades to there rosters.

  • Oil9744

    Great article Gregor! I still believe this is our year to break out of the drought! We need our fans more louder at games especially when teams like Montreal are in town!! Either way, LETS GO OILERS!!!!!!

  • oilderrick7

    They played this song in the arena last night during the Oilers’ timeout right before an offensive zone faceoff with Talbot pulled. My buddy texts me “maybe this 8 mile track is what we need to get a goal”. Puck drops. BAM! Empty-netter. Game over. I was bummed but had to laugh out loud.

  • Petrolero

    “Ready to BUCK BUCK BUCK and it’s a must
    To DUCK DUCK DUCK before I bust
    Lookin for the one that did it
    But like En Vogue, no you’re never gonna get it
    Cos I’m the one with the fat mad skills
    And I won’t choke like the Buffalo Bills”

  • ubermiguel

    Keep in mind we have five games against Colorado and Vancouver yet to come, easy schedule is coming up. This is all part of the learning process, there were always going to be ups and downs, but this team is psychologically different than past years. I saw it in the Pittsburgh game where they gave up a 2 goal lead to the reigning Stanley Cup champions, facing two top-5 scorers, but they did not give up; they locked it down and got a point. In years past people would have rightfully turned the game off after the first period.

  • Borbs

    Gregor, did you have to look up how to spell sphincter? It’s about time the Oilers are in a position to have people pucker up, so to speak!! And I agree with you, if the Oilers take care of business down the stretch,
    they’ll still make it!

  • Heschultzhescores

    I get that you don’t change the outcome of games, but the sports Gods seem to frown upon cockiness. That’s why the greatest players in the world tend to be humble, but inwardly confident. Just my thought. Let’s stay positive, but quit talking about a lock on a playoff spot well before it’s fact. Don’t say shutout either…same principal.

  • Heschultzhescores

    And Cam Talbot’s 61 games played x 60 minutes has him playing many many more minutes that Leon. For the minutes played, Talbot is making waaay too little.