Bobrovsky vs Skinner: Bob takes first game in Stanley Cup goaltender battle

On paper he was out-goalied, but, really, this loss wasn’t on Skinner

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The NHL goalie fraternity is a tight one, so Stuart Skinner knows the score.

Some playoff games, as Dallas tender Jake Oettinger found out in Game 6 of the last series, you hardly see any rubber because the puck’s in the other end shift after shift and you still get the L at the end of the night when you see 10 shots and give up two goals.

Oettinger lived it to end the Western Conference final and Skinner went through the same thing in the first game of the Stanley Cup final, giving up two on the first 12 Florida Panthers’ shots, through no fault of his own, while his Edmonton Oilers teammates were pelting the old guy in the other net with 28.

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In the end, all Skinner could do was applaud.

What was it like to see Sergei Bobrovsky at work in a 3-0 shutout?

“To be honest, all I was doing was watching,” said Skinner.

“He made some spectacular saves and all I could so was say “wow, what a save.’’’

On paper he was out-goalied, but, really, this loss wasn’t on Skinner. First goal four minutes in, by winger Carter Verhaeghe, who has 10 goals on 25 shots this spring. He finishes off a three-way rush with Sasha Barkov and Sam Reinhart with Oilers caught up ice. Second goal by Evan Rodriques, Sam Bennett eludes Cody Ceci on the end boards, and his shovel pass gets past Darnell Nurse in the slot, and perfect shot, glove side.

So we go back to what Skinner said a few days ago, before his first Cup finals game after Skinner was sensational in the last three games of the Dallas series, giving up four goals. He was asked if the heat would be turned up even higher than it was in the first three series to get this far.

“I’ll, uh, tell you after Game 1,” shrugged Skinner.

Stuart Skinner #74 of the Edmonton Oilers
SUNRISE, FLORIDA – JUNE 08: Stuart Skinner #74 of the Edmonton Oilers reacts during the third period against the Florida Panthers in Game One of the 2024 Stanley Cup Final at Amerant Bank Arena on June 08, 2024 in Sunrise, Florida. Photo by Bruce Bennett /Getty Images

Skinner said he had a few butterflies before the game, but not a whole net-full.

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“Felt really normal through the day, then before warm-up I started to get a few butterflies which is always fine, just means you’re excited and love what you’re doing,” he said.

Does it matter that they scored on the first shot?

Clearly you would like a few more puck touches.

“That question has been asked a lot. Felt like every game in our 16-game (regular-season) win streak, the other team was scoring on the first one and you’re able to channel your energy, just like tonight,” he said.

“First goal is obviously a dagger but it’s all about how you respond.”

“I thought our team did an incredible job.”

Frankly, the Panthers had trouble with the Oilers speed all night. They are very good at making you pay with their aggressiveness inside the opposing zone (see Rodrigues’ goal), but the Oilers were able to get the puck up ice with quick passes.

But Bobrovsky, who turns 36 later this summer, was like wall.

“I mean I’ve been on the other side of this (Game 6) and you feel good,” said Skinner, who eventually faced 18 shots and was on the bench for an extra skater when Eetu Luostarinen scored into the empty net with five ticks left on the clock.

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But “Bob” was too good, making a series of Dominik Hasek type saves down low, even though in these playoffs 31 of the 38 goals he’s given up are on shots up high. He’s given up no goals five-hole and the Oilers seemed to be trying to go there on breakaways by Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Adam Henrique. Good dekes, but again UP HIGH.

So do goalies ever tell their teammates that the other guy is dynamite on shots along the ice, just so you know. “That’s kind of his…” said Skinner.

His M.O., his modus operandi.

“Yeah, he’s amazing down low, but also up high. He’s just hard to beat. He does a great job of sealing the ice,” said Skinner.

Edmonton Oilers and Florida Panthers
SUNRISE, FLORIDA – JUNE 08: Connor McDavid #97 of the Edmonton Oilers collides with Brandon Montour #62 of the Florida Panthers during the second period in Game One of the 2024 Stanley Cup Final at Amerant Bank Arena on June 08, 2024 in Sunrise, Florida. Photo by Bruce Bennett /Getty Images

Wounded in heat of battle

Connor McDavid had a bandage on his bearded chin as he sat on the bench in the third period, an angry-looking gash poking through the layers of hair. It didn’t come after a hellacious second-period collision with his former minor-hockey teammate Bennett, though.

“Nah, it was something before that,” said the Oiler captain, who had six shots on Bobrovsky..

Bennett and McDavid were teammates on travel teams.

As Bennett told the Athletic’s Daniel Nugent-Bowman “it’s pretty remarkable how things work out. Back then we were just a couple of kids enjoying minor hockey. The dream was to play in the Stanley Cup final. Now to go against him, pretty cool experience.”

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Checking out ice-time

Nurse played the fewest minutes of any Oiler defenceman (16:09), an indicator that either Paul Coffey, who runs the blue line, wasn’t all that thrilled by his game (-2) or Nurse is hurt.

Nurse shockingly played two fewer even strength minutes than Philip Broberg, who had a strong game with partner Brett Kulak. The Rodrigues goal came when Bennett’s pass hopped over his stick.

Bad luck as much as bad management.

“Through the wickets,” said Nurse, partnered with Ceci.

Darnell Nurse
SUNRISE, FLORIDA – JUNE 08: Matthew Tkachuk #19 of the Florida Panthers is hit by Darnell Nurse #25 of the Edmonton Oilers in Game One of the 2024 Stanley Cup Final at Amerant Bank Arena on June 08, 2024 in Sunrise, Florida. Photo by Bruce Bennett /Getty Images

Also looking at minutes, while Mattias Ekholm wound up playing 18:57, strangely halfway through the game he had just 7:40, the fewest even strenght minutes of any Oilers defenceman. Was Ekholm limited at all physically? Or were the shortened minutes just because partner Evan Bouchard was on for almost 5:39 of the Oilers six PP minutes and Ekholm never got on with Nurse on the second unit.

Ekholm was also in the penalty box once, so missed a PK opportunity?

“Bouch had all the time on the powerplay and it wasn’t like he could go right back out for his shift (with Ekholm) after playing two minutes. He (Ekholm) had to wait his turn,” said Oilers coach Kris Knoblauch.

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This ‘n that

  • The Oilers had been shut out twice in the first game of the Cup final. Islanders goalie Billy Smith also blanked them in 1983 to start a four-game sweep.
  • The Oilers have now killed off 30 straight PPs going back to Game 3 of the series against the Canucks but something to watch for: Florida has killed 35 of the last 37 over the past 10 games and three by Oilers in Game 1.
  • Have no idea how the stats people count up team hits. The stats sheet post-game says the Panthers had 63 hits to the Oilers 35. It wasn’t that one-sided folks. And Florida  fourth-liner Steve Lorentz, who played all of 5:39 was credited with seven hits. Hmmm!
  • The Oilers did beat Bobrovsky once but Connor Brown’s goal in the crease was waved off because the zebras thought the goalie was pushed the goalie into the net…Bouchard kept pounding shots at Bobrovsky but had eight shots blocked.

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