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It wasn’t always pretty but the Oilers drag the Panthers back with clutch 5-3 road win

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baggedmilk
28 days ago
The Oilers needed a clutch road win to stay alive in the Stanley Cup Final, and they did exactly that with a 5-3 victory over the Panthers in Game 5. By no means was this game a masterpiece — I was convinced Florida would push it to overtime — but no one cares how the job gets done when it’s a do-or-die situation.

CONNOR McDAVID WAS UNSTOPPABLE

The Oilers have faced elimination the past two games, and when they needed a hero to save the day, Connor McDavid stepped up with back-to-back four-point nights to extend the series to six games. When the chips were down, our captain strapped into the Game Genie and rose to an unstoppable level. BTW is anyone old enough to remember Game Genies?
My love of old video games aside, what we’re watching from Connor McDavid right now is the stuff that will be talked about forever. McDavid is doing everything he can to will this team forward, and I don’t even know what the Panthers are supposed to do to stop it. With eight points in his last two games — he’s the only player to ever do that in the finals, I should add — Connor McDavid is making magic at a time when we need it most, and I’m pretty damned excited to see what else he can do to keep the dream alive on Friday night at Rogers Place.

STUART SKINNER OUTDUELS BOBROVSKY AGAIN

A lot of people have doubted Stuart Skinner during this playoff run, and it’s been fascinating to watch him respond to the critics. We all remember how bold it was of Kris Knoblauch to pull Stu out for Games 3 and 4 of the Vancouver series, but that reset seemed to be exactly what he needed. Ever since he’s been back between the pipes, Skinner has given the boys a puncher’s chance in basically every game he’s played, and isn’t that all you can ask for from your goalie? The most impressive part to me is that Stuart Skinner is not only giving the Oilers a chance to win, but he’s also outperforming some very good goaltenders in games when it matters most.
In Games 4 and 5 of this Stanley Cup Final, Stu outdueled a guy who has looked unbeatable through most of Florida’s playoff run, and he’s doing it without anyone outside of Edmonton believing that he can. And while 29 saves and a .906 save% may not be the sexiest numbers you’ll ever see, it’s hard to deny how many of those saves came at critical moments of the game or when it looked like the Panthers had a sure goal. Instead, Skinner frustrated them with clutch saves at big moments and laid the foundation for his teammates to build upon. Even though he may not be the “star” goalie other teams brag about, Stuart Skinner is getting the job done at the biggest moments of his career, and he’s outperforming guys who are supposed to be way better.

THE SPECIAL TEAMS WERE SPECIAL AGAIN

The Oilers power play was struggling to get much going early in the series against a very aggressive Panthers penalty kill, but the tides have started to turn over these last two games. Even though it was on a 5-on-3 in Game 4, I was hoping that the first PP goal from Ryan Nugent-Hopkins could be the spark the boys needed to get themselves going. Thankfully, the Hockey Gords answered my prayers with two power play goals in Game 5, including the game winner by Corey Perry.
Not to be outdone, Edmonton’s PK was perfect in three shorthanded situations and came up with a 4-on-5 goal for the second straight game. I don’t know what has gotten into Mattias Janmark and Connor Brown over the last couple of rounds, but those two look unstoppable and unbeatable when they’re teamed up together on the PK. On Saturday, Connor Brown made an excellent play to go behind the net and feed Janmark out front. Last night, Brown opened the scoring for the second straight game with a shorthanded marker that put the Panthers back on their heels and set the tone for what was to come.
On a night when the Oilers desperately needed to execute, their special teams came out +3 on the night. In terms of clutch performances, what both units did in Game 5 was remarkable. Who would have thought Edmonton would be PK merchants too, am I right? Unbelievable.

CONNOR BROWN, WE SPEAK YOUR NAME

I love the story Connor Brown is writing as these playoffs roll along. The guy was a healthy scratch throughout the first round, only to be inserted against the Canucks and take off like a rocket ship ever since. For as much shit as the good took throughout the regular season for not scoring, the run he’s on right now is making Oilers fans forget all about those struggles. Instead, we’re getting the chance to watch a redemption arc unlike any that I can remember, and I couldn’t be happier for the guy to SIUTBSOHC the way he is.
I know a lot of people, myself included, wondered what the hell was going on with this signing as the year wore on, but I think you’d be hardpressed to find anyone who is not enjoying what he can do now. The guy is relentless, and that dog-on-a-bone attitude is paying huge dividends so far in the finals. Put another way, I couldn’t be happier to be wrong about a player as I was with what Connor Brown is able to do now that he’s healthy and running at full speed.

OTHER THINGS WORTH MENTIONING…

Evan Bouchard set a new NHL record for most assists by a defenceman in a single playoff run with his 26th of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Pretty sure I can already hear the Brinks trucks backing up.
-I liked the way Warren Foegele played on McDavid’s line last night. I thought he used his speed effectively, was engaged on the forecheck, and did a really nice job of retrieving pucks and passing them off to the captain. Foegele has really elevated his played over the last three games, and it’s been fun to watch him get back on it after a very slow start to his playoff run.
-Who had Corey Perry scoring the game winner on their bingo card? Liars. After a quiet SCF to this point, Perry couldn’t have picked a better time to register his first goal of the playoffs than he did last night. I mean, I know Connor McDavid did most of the work on that play, but you’ve gotta give Perry kudos for being able to execute the finish.
-The Oilers were outhit 44 to 16 in Game 5, and while I know that’s not really their game, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want a little more pushback. Leading up to the series, we all heard about how physical the Panthers like to play, but I just wish the Oilers had a better counterpunch when the going got tough.
– I think I would have given my left arm for the boys to be able to win a defensive zone draw. At 40.3% on the dot, the Oilers got caved in on faceoffs and some of those d-zone losses resulted in way too much attack time for the Panthers. Needless to say, there’s room for improvement.
-It’s completely understandable why the Panthers players are all deflecting when asked about whether or not they’re feeling the pressure of the moment, but how could they not be? Florida has had two chances to close at this point and have been dragging their families all over the continent only to watch them give up 14 goals in six periods. Is anyone really buying that story? I’m not. Not for one bit.

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