GDB +19.0: Another Oilers Stanley Cup run to remember starts tonight (6pm MT, CBC)

Oilers practice at Amerant Bank Arena
Photo credit:Tyler Yaremchuk
1 month ago
For the first time in this website’s existence, we’re only hours away from Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, and I could not be more excited to be writing this GDB to help get us all prepped and ready for puck drop.
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I honestly still can’t believe I’m writing this GDB. We have all waited so long for this moment that I’m still in disbelief about what’s happening a few hours from now, and I say that even though I’m wrapping up this post from my hotel room in Fort Lauderdale. It almost feels like I’m in the Matrix, and I keep expecting to wake up at some point.
When I jumped on the red-eye from Edmonton to Toronto last night, I sat in my seat for a minute in disbelief about where I was going. I don’t tend to sleep well on planes, and the excitement and adrenaline coursing through my veins exacerbated that problem. It was a long night on that flight to Toronto, an even longer wait in the airport for my next flight to Florida, and even though I’m here now, it feels almost like a fever dream that we’re talking about Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final.
Of course, this moment is what we all dreamed about. As fans of the Edmonton Oilers, we’ve spent so much time over the last two decades talking about what could have been in 2006 if we just had a little more luck. If you’re old enough to remember that run, the idea of getting back there was something we couldn’t shake, and yet, with so many challenging years of hockey behind us, it also felt like a destination that was well out of reach.
Yet, despite years of wondering if we’d ever get the chance to see the Oil back in the finals, a horrific start to this ‘Cup or bust’ year, a coaching change, and every hurdle that’s been cleared since November, the Edmonton Oilers are only a few short hours away from the biggest series of their careers. Is it going to be easy? Of course not. Will there be moments of frustration? Of course, there will be. But after years of running with the Hope Will Never Die slogan here at ON, we’re finally getting our chance at glory.
With only four wins to go until Connor McDavid lifts the Stanley Cup over his head, the Oilers are so damned close to their goal that I can almost taste it. Of course, getting through the Florida Panthers is going to be anything but easy. That team is a juggernaut and will undoubtedly be the biggest test our boys have faced so far. Yet, even though there are so many people giving the Panthers their flowers, all I can think about is how Edmonton is a pretty damned good team too.
The reality is that this series will be decided by who can execute the best and who can minimize their mistakes. Even though they got away with blowing leads against Vancouver and Dallas, that won’t work against the Panthers. They’re too successful at both ends of the rink to be gifting them with any unearned advantage, and if the Oilers do find themselves with a lead, they need to put their nuts on the line to extend it and avoid just trying to protect it. The killer instinct has to be razor sharp for this one.
I watched the condensed games on YouTube from last year’s Cup Final between the Panthers and Golden Knights, and one thing that stuck out was how good of a job Vegas did at ignoring anything beyond the whistles. If the Panthers tried to lure them into the mud, they more or less ignored it and stuck to their game plan instead of getting outside of their lane. I think that’s a good lesson for the Oilers, too, as we’ve heard basically every variation on how physical Florida will play and how aggressive they are on the forecheck.
If the Panthers are going to play heavy, the Oilers need to play fast.
But you already know all of this stuff. If you’re reading this, I’m guessing you spent the last week thinking about every detail of this series, and nothing I say now will be new. Instead, I want to wrap this GDB up by reminding everyone to enjoy the moment as best you can. These next two weeks will be as fun as they will be stressful, but I hope everyone can take a minute to stop and enjoy the view as it’s happening.
The Stanley Cup Final doesn’t come around all that often — we’ve had more draft parties than Stanley Cup parties —and just like the run in 2006, we’re going to remember this one forever. No matter where you’re watching this game, I hope it’s with the people you enjoy talking about the Oilers with the most. Whether that means watching with your kids, buddies, spouse, family, or whoever comes to mind, these are the good old days, Nation, and it’s been a blast to share the ride with you.
Let’s see what the numbers say…


POWER PLAY%37.323.3
AVG. SHOTS/FOR28.933.2
TEAM SAVE%.895.924
CORSI FOR%49.9455.42
Numbers courtesy of Natural Stat Trick (Sv%, CF%, PDO, Shooting%, xGF% all at 5×5)




Nugent-Hopkins – McDavid – Hyman
Kane – Draisaitl – Holloway
Foegele – McLeod – Perry
Janmark – Henrique – Brown
Ekholm – Bouchard
Nurse – Ceci
Broberg – Kulak
From the crease outward, the Oilers will need to bring their best and nothing less. This series is going to be all about the small details and who can execute on them the best. That means no cheating on breakouts, no overcomplicating the offence, keeping it tight in the d-zone, and most importantly, not allowing the Panthers to take over big chunks of the game without having much in the way of pushback. I know Kris Knoblauch said it’s impossible to control games for 60 minutes at this stage of the playoffs, but if the Oilers are going to win Game 1, they’ll need to handle as many of those minutes as humanly possible.


Verhaeghe – Barkov – Reinhart
Tkachuk – Bennett – Rodrigues
Luostarinen – Lundell – Tarasenko
Lorentz – Stenlund – Okposo
Forsling – Ekblad
Mikkola – Montour
Ekman-Larsson – Kulikov
Even though the Panthers’ top end players aren’t at the same level as McDavid or Draisaitl, there’s no doubt that this is a deep hockey club. If the Oilers are going to head into Amerant Bank Arena and steal a game, they’ll need to be wary of not only the aggressiveness of Florida’s forecheck but also their ability to generate offence throughout the roster. I mean, what else can you really say about a team that has Vlad Tarasenko on their third line?


From Litter Box Cats:
The Panthers will bring a balanced attack to series. Fourteen of the twenty skaters that have suited up for the Cats in the playoffs have lit the lamp at least once, led by Carter Verhaeghe’s nine goals. Sam Reinhart, who scored 57 times in the regular season, is right behind Verhaeghe with eight. Reinhart’s 65 combined goals is a franchise record. Each player has scored four times on the power-play.
Although he leads the club in scoring with 19 points, Matthew Tkachuk needs to take a more active role in providing goals. Tkachuk scored 11 times last postseason with four of those markers being game-winners.
This year, he has only collected a total of five goals. He delivered the opening salvo in both the second round against Boston and the Eastern Conference Final against New York and then went a bit quiet afterwards, registering four assists over the last five games of each series.
If the Panthers could get a series out of Tkachuk like last’s years performance against the Bruins (5G/6A in seven games) or Carolina (4G/1A in four games) it would be huge and likely result in the first-ever title for the club.
Captain Aleksander Barkov is enjoying the best playoff run of his career with six goals and 17 points. While he deserves every bit of props he’s getting for his excellent two-way performance, Barkov needs to bury the high-quality chances he gets in this series. Yes, he’s been fabulous, but has left some goals on the table.
Another former Flame, Sam Bennett, could also be the deciding factor. A hand/wrist injury early in the first round cost Bennett five games, as he has gotten healthier his impact has grown. Bennett scored in the last three games against the Rangers and finished the series with four goals and six points.
An adjustment by Paul Maurice, moving Vladimir Tarasenko down the lineup, seemed to spark Florida’s third line late in ECF. Anton Lundell scored a colossal goal in Game 5 off an assist from Eetu Luostarinen, and the two hard-working Finns combined to set up Tarasenko’s series-winner in Game 6. Tarasenko hadn’t scored since Game 3 against Boston before he ended the Rangers season.


Photoshop: Tom Kostiuk
Game Day Prediction: A lot of folks are doubting the Oilers, but the boys silence the noise with a big 4-2 road win to kick off the series.
Obvious Game Day Prediction: The Oilers power play comes through with a clutch goal for the third consecutive game, giving Edmonton a lead that they will not give up.
Not-So-Obvious Game Day Prediction: Darnell Nurse picks up his first goal of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

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