A Collection Of Thoughts: Oilers Make A Dent, A Monster Run, Laine On The Move?

By Will Chase on June 17, 2024 at 1:45 pm
Edmonton Oilers left wing Dylan Holloway (55) skates passed Florida Panthers goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky (72) in the first period in game four of the 2024 Stanley Cup Final at Rogers Place.
Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Do we have a series or is the inevitable delayed another day?

Sergei Bobrovsky and the Florida Panthers are still on the brink of the Stanley Cup just as they entered Saturday's Game 4 tilt against the Edmonton Oilers.

Seeking the win and what would have been the first Stanley Cup sweep since a four-peat of sweeps from 1995-98, the Oilers instead finally broke out in a big way, winning 8-1 on Saturday night and forcing the series to Game 5 on Tuesday night in Sunrise, Florida.

The last Stanley Cup Final sweeps go back to the mid-to-late 1990s when the New Jersey Devils beat the Detroit Red Wings in 1995, the Colorado Avalanche beat Doug MacLean's Panthers in 1996, and Scotty Bowman's Wings exacted revenge with consecutive sweeps over the Philadelphia Flyers and Washington Capitals in 1997 and 1998.

Before Game 4, the Panthers had frustrated and shut down the Oilers' dynamic and electric offense. Edmonton showed a little offensive life in the third period of Game 3 when they scored two third-period goals to cut a 4-1 deficit to one before losing 4-3.

Entering Game 4, the Oilers' top playoff scorers, Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, and Evan Bouchard, combined for zero goals and four assists, with three of those by McDavid. The captain had two assists in Game 3. Drasaitl had no points through Game 4, and the same for Zach Hyman.

On the other side, Bobrovsky has played lights out in the net for much of the playoffs, with a 3-0 Game 1 shutout in which the Oilers outplayed Florida, a 4-1 Game 2 win, and a 4-3 Game 3 win.

There were only four goals to get by Bobrovsky while he and the Panthers shut down arguably the best offense and the best power play (29.9%) when it's clicking. They scored a 5-on-3 goal Saturday night.

Before Game 4, Florida was No. 1 in goals allowed per game during the playoffs (2.15) and is now at 2.43 — still taking into account the Panthers have played more games than the teams ahead of them.

Everything changed on Saturday as the Oilers came to play.

Scoring three first-period goals and three more in the second period, the Oilers chased Bobrovsky in the second period after five goals — the first time all playoffs that he didn't finish a game as Anthony Stolarz made his postseason debut — and two more third-period goals. Bobrovsky played 24:53, the second-shortest start of his playoff career, with the previous low coming in his second career playoff start for the Flyers (12:30), in which he allowed three goals on seven shots.

McDavid had four points in Game 4, scoring his first goal of the final and he had three assists to give him 38 points these playoffs, tied for fifth all-time with Gretzky (1982-83), who still has the record with a 47-point performance in 1984-85. In Saturday's win, McDavid tied and passed Wayne Gretzky (1987-88) for most assists in a single postseason with 32 helpers. Drasaitl and Hyman each cracked the scoresheet with two assists in Game 4.

The Cleveland Monsters had a run for the ages.

Unfortunately, the run fell short 3-2 in overtime during Game 7 to the Hershey Bears in the Eastern Conference Final last week. As the Monsters fought to the bitter end of a championship berth, Cleveland was trying to pull off some history in the process, looking to complete the comeback after trailing 3-0 in the series.

Monsters head coach Trent Vogelhuber, only 35 years old, has shown potential for his ability behind the bench as he helped lead Cleveland to the brink of the final. The last time the Monsters won the Calder Cup was in 2016 when Jared Bednar — current head coach of the Avalanche — was the head coach and took over the Avalanche the very next season following Patrick Roy's sudden resignation a month before the 2016-17 season.

That 2016-17 Avalanche team was 22-56-4 with 48 points but turned in a drastic 47-point turnaround the next season, going 43-30-9 with 95 points and a playoff berth. The Pittsburgh Penguins had a 47-point turnaround between 2005-06 and 2006-07 and the New Jersey Devils had a 49-point improvement between 2021-22 and 2022-23.

Not saying Vogelhuber is going to be Bednar, but the Blue Jackets might have something in Vogelhuber.

Vogelhuber was a member of the 2005-06 Ohio Blue Jackets AAA, played college hockey at Miami University, and was an alternate captain for the Monsters before transitioning to the coaching staff in 2018-19 and becoming head coach in 2022-23.

It was a big year for goaltender Jet Greaves. He was 30-12-4 in 46 regular season games with a 2.98 goals against average and a .910 save percentage. Greaves was 8-5-0 in the playoffs in 13 games with a 2.17 GAA and .926 SV%. In nine games for the Blue Jackets, he went 3-6-0, 3.49 GAA, .908 SV%.

Patrik Laine is on the move?

That seems to be the case following reports last week. On Friday, The Athletic's Aaron Portzline wrote the decision around moving Laine surfaced earlier this summer, with senior advisor John Davidson acting as interim general manager and opting to leave the task of actually finding a trade to the new general manager.

Now, we'll see what Don Waddell does.

Laine's contract runs through 2025-26 at a cap hit of $8.7 million with a modified trade clause.

Next up for Waddell and the Blue Jackets is the NHL draft June 28-29 from Las Vegas.

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