Stanley Cup Final: Oilers can’t solve Sergei Bobrovsky as Panthers take Game 1

by Admin
Stanley Cup Final: Oilers can't solve Sergei Bobrovsky as Panthers take Game 1

The Edmonton Oilers did everything they could to solve Sergei Bobrovsky in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, but the Florida Panthers netminder put on a show in front of a sold-out Amerant Bank Arena during a 3-0 victory on Saturday night.

Bobrovsky stopped all 32 shots he faced, frustrating an Oilers team that was averaging 3.5 goals per game heading into the Cup Final.

Despite Edmonton’s best efforts, which included 32 scoring chances and three power play opportunities, it didn’t end with pucks getting behind Bobrovsky. The Panthers, meanwhile, took advantage of their chances and cashed in while exposing the defensive deficiencies of the Oilers.

The defensive issues for Edmonton didn’t take long to manifest. Carter Verhaeghe opened the scoring 3:59 into the game after finishing off an perfectly executed transition by the Panthers from out of their own end. A lack of communication saw Oilers defenseman Cody Ceci leave the center of the ice to defend Aleksander Barkov, but that allowed Verhaeghe to go unmarked entering the zone with Mattias Ekholm slow to back-check.

One of the Panthers’ strengths is their forecheck, something that allowed Florida to create chances against the Oilers’ blue line.

This was on display during the Panthers’ second goal. Sam Bennett dumped the puck into the corner, beat Ceci to it and passed it in front to a streaking Evan Rodrigues to make it 2-0 early in the second period.

Eetu Luostarinen added the empty-net insurance tally to seal the game for the Panthers.

The defensive pairing of Ceci and Darnell Nurse suffered in Game 1. The Oilers have been outscored 12-5 this postseason when they’re on the ice together, including both Panthers goals.

The Panthers did play with fire a bit. They gave three opportunities to the Oilers’ power play, which had been successful 37.3% of the time before Game 1. But Bobrovsky continued to be a brick wall and the Florida penalty kill helped keep Edmonton from getting into the game.

There will be adjustments for Oilers head coach Kris Knoblauch to make ahead of Monday’s Game 2, but the biggest will be trying to find Bobrovsky’s weak spots after a 32-save night.

The Oilers did find holes to help create their 18 high-danger scoring chances. Adam Henrique and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins each had first period breakaways, but could not beat Bobrovsky.

Offensively, it wasn’t a bad game for the Oilers. Through two periods they dominated possession and scoring chances at 5-on-5. The third period, while pressing to create anything to get on the board, they struggled, managing only 7 shots over the final 20 minutes.

Bobrovsky was just too good in Game 1 and an opening game victory in the Stanley Cup Final historically bodes well for the winning team.

According to the NHL, teams that win Game 1 in the best-of-seven Cup Final are 64-20 (.762) all-time and 51-10 (.836) when coming out victors in that first game while at home.

The Panthers now take a 1-0 series lead into Monday’s Game 2 back at Amerant Bank Arena.

Game 1: Panthers 3, Oilers 0
Game 2: Oilers at Panthers | Monday, June 10, 8 p.m. ET (ABC, ESPN+)
Game 3: Panthers at Oilers | Thursday, June 13, 8 p.m. ET (ABC, ESPN+)
Game 4: Panthers at Oilers | Saturday, June 15, 8 p.m. ET (ABC, ESPN+)
*Game 5: Oilers at Panthers | Tuesday, June 18, 8 p.m. ET (ABC, ESPN+)
*Game 6: Panthers at Oilers | Friday, June 21, 8 p.m. ET (ABC, ESPN+)
*Game 7: Oilers at Panthers | Monday, June 24, 8 p.m. ET (ABC, ESPN+)

(*if necessary)

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