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A four game heater would solve all of the Oilers’ problems

Edmonton Oilers celebrate win at Rogers Place
Photo credit:Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
baggedmilk
1 month ago
Instead of bowing out quietly and allowing the Cup to be awarded on home ice, the Oilers put down one of their best games of the playoffs to extend the series with a commanding 8-1 win. Backs against the wall, Edmonton played with desperation and resilience. How did it happen? There are a lot of reasons. And I think the boys might be able to recreate a bunch of them.

GETTING GREASY ON OFFENCE

The Oilers scored 10 goals over the last four periods of play, and it’s pretty easy to find a pattern in their scoring. The boys put their hard hats on and got oily out there. From the moment the puck dropped to the moment the final buzzer went off, the Oilers played with a level of desperation that the Panthers couldn’t match, and they’ll need to do it three more times if they plan on being only the second team in NHL history to come back from 3-0 in the Stanley Cup Final.
What I liked most about how the Oilers played in Game 4 was that the bulk of their goals were scored from the greasy areas on the ice. Not only were they firing pucks toward the top half of the net, but they were also crashing the crease with speed to pick up the leftovers if there were some, and that strategy paid off more than a few times. The other thing it did was push Florida’s defencemen pretty much on top of Bobrovsky and Stollarz, opening lanes for the Oilers to move the puck for wide-open looks like they got on the McDavid, Nurse, and second Holloway markers.
The point here is that the Oilers played a simple, speed-based flavour of hockey, and the Panthers struggled mightily to handle the heat. I know it will be hard for lightning to strike twice in a row, but their idea for generating chances needs to carry over. Even though it sounds straightforward, getting pucks to the net and fighting for every inch of ice has worked over the past 80 minutes, and I’d bet all of Gregor’s money that Kris Knoblauch is asking for more of the same.

HAVE THEY SOLVED BOBROVSKY?

Through most of the first three games of this series, Sergei Bobrovsky looked unbeatable. The guy was stopping everything he should have and plenty of pucks that should have gone in too. For 120 minutes, Bob looked like he could win this series on his own. But that’s when I thought things started to change. In the third period of Game 3, the Oilers tagged him for two quick goals, and it was the first time in the series that they’d been able to do that. Even though the boys lost that game, I was hopeful that their third period comeback attempt might be the start of something.
What I didn’t expect, however, was that the Oilers would tag him for five goals on only 16 shots. Instead of looking unbeatable, Bobrovsky looked more like the guy who couldn’t stop squat in last year’s final. Now, just because the Oilers have put eight goals past him in the last two games, that doesn’t mean his struggles will last forever. Even though I absolutely do think that Edmonton is starting to figure him out a little bit, they’ll need to keep solving this puzzle if they have any chance of making this a long series.

THE POWER PLAY FINALLY CLICKS

It may not have been the prettiest power play goal we’ve ever seen, but the Oilers finally managed to get one to go on their six chances with the man advantage. Of course, I highly doubt the Panthers will take six more penalties in Game 5, but I’m still hopeful that finally sinking one will be the start of something beautiful for Edmonton. Sometimes, it only takes one goal to get the ball rolling, and just like we saw against the Stars, it was Ryan Nugent-Hopkins who got the job done.
It seems like the most obvious thing I could say, but having the power play take off in the back half of the Stanley Cup Final just as it did against the Stars would go a long way for extending this series beyond Tuesday night. The Oilers have done a reasonable job of scoring at even strength but haven’t been able to get anything done with a PP unit that is usually their bread and butter. Being as good as they’ve been for as long as they have is also why it’s only a matter of time before the power play starts to break through. The Hockey Gords can’t keep them quiet forever.

BIG DOGS ON THE BOARD

Despite having a slow start to the series, the big boys came through with all kinds of scoring in Game 4, and I’m hoping that was the offensive awakening they desperately needed. The Oilers’ top five scorers — McDavid, Draisaitl, Hyman, Nugent-Hopkins, and Bouchard — registered 10 points (2G, 8A) between them after being kept quiet through the first three. Keeping players that good quiet for a while is one thing, but doing it forever is damned near impossible. Here’s hoping everyone is awake and their confidence levels have reached full Johnny Bravo.

BELIEVE IN THE STREAK

The Oilers lost three games in a row three times under Kris Knoblauch during the 2023-24 season, and all three of those streaks were followed up by win streaks of five games or more. It goes without saying that beating the Florida Panthers four times in a row will be pretty damned hard — the stat I saw suggested a 5% probability of the comeback — but if ever there was a team that could get the job done, it has to be the one we’re watching now.
Even though it’s incredibly biased for me to suggest that the Oilers can become only the second team in Cup Final history to accomplish the reverse sweep, I believe it is possible until proven otherwise. This season has been too damned weird for me to give up hope now. Not to mention, if the Oilers somehow pull out another win in Sunrise, you can’t tell me that the Panthers won’t start getting in their head. They just got stomped by a field goal and a rouge, and it’s not crazy to think that they might start getting the yips should the Oilers find a way to stay alive once more.

DON’T BE LIKE THE MAVERICKS

The Dallas Mavericks found themselves in the exact same situation as the Oilers in their NBA Final matchup against the Celtics, and it did not go well for them in Game 5. Down 3-1 and on the road, the Mavs had the chance to put a dent into Boston’s spirit and came out incredibly flat. The Oilers can’t do the same.
You know the Amerant Bank Arena will be fired up for the home side, and it will be up to the Oilers to quiet the crowd as quickly as possible. Watching the Celtics dominate the deciding game was a lesson in what can happen after missing the opportunity at the sweep, and the Oilers will need to be prepared from the crease outward or risk running the same fate. Unfortunately, the Mavericks didn’t get any closer to making the impossible happen, and we’ll have to wait and see whether the Oilers will be able to do what Dallas couldn’t — live to fight another day.

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