The Edmonton Oilers fan’s guide to a best-case scenario comeback

David Amber, Kelly Hrudey, and Kevin Bieksa look ahead to Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final, discussing how each team will fare after a blowout Edmonton Oilers win, whether Florida Panthers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky will bounce back, and more.

Let’s just say, hypothetically, that in one week we’re sitting here and the Edmonton Oilers have won the Stanley Cup. They did it, they stormed back from down 3-0 to beat the consensus “best team in the league” and brought the Cup back to Canada for the first time in 31 years.

How did it happen? What did it look like? Essentially, what would have to happen to bridge us from the morning of Game 5 to the conclusion of Game 7, with the Oilers finding their stride and running away with it all?

As an analyst, I love playing the “reverse engineer a comeback” game, as it forces me to look at possible outcomes I wouldn’t have considered based on the games played so far.

If nothing else, this should offer Oilers fans a bit of hope heading into what should be their biggest challenge of the season yet: Game 5 in Florida, with the Panthers having the chance to win the Cup at home. As you can imagine, the Oilers now have their attention.

So, what do the Oilers have going for them that could get them to the Cup in a week’s time?

Barkov and Bennett have injuries of unclear severity

Here are two facts: Aleksander Barkov got popped in the head by Leon Draisaitl in Game 3. In Game 4 Barkov was dash-two and comparably ineffective.

Could be totally unrelated, might not be. But if he’s off even just a little bit, that’s a huge weapon neutralized for a team light on big weapons in general.

Matthew Tkachuk seems to be dealing with something, and last game Sam Bennett got his ankle/knee twisted up on a hit, and left the game for a short bit before returning.

If the Panthers’ best players are slightly slowed, that helps.

Bobrovsky looks human

The McDavid/Draisaitl Oilers tend to eventually ruin goalies. Try as they might, and it may be a noble fight, but it usually ends one way. I think back to the way the Oilers basically destroyed Jacob Markstrom for a while after their playoff series in 2022, and can’t help but wonder if it’s too late for them to get to Sergei Bobrovsky in some similar way. Bob gave up five last game, and it’s not impossible his confidence took a bit of a hit. If the Oilers’ shooting can suddenly get better by an inch here or there, and Bob is off by the same, you could see a Florida team forced to chase offence a bit, which isn’t where they thrive.

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McDavid now humming

The Oilers have been an incredible bounce-back team this season. They lost three games in a row three different times, and each time went on winning streaks longer than that to follow them up.

That’s partially because McDavid is a big bounce back player. That he bounced back with a whopping four-point night in Game 4 doesn’t mean nothing. He doesn’t need to be squeezing the stick now. He can just play, and attack, and do the things he does best. If the league’s best “shark” smells some chum in the water here, things are going to be harder for Florida.

Stuart Skinner has been good later in series

He handled the Kings when it came time to close out that series. In Games 6 and 7 against Vancouver he was more than equal to the task, and Skinner was spectacular in closing out the Dallas Stars and Jake Oettinger.

As we move again into the later games in a series, if he happens to go on one of those lightning-in-a-bottle type heaters we’ve seen him go on in the past, it would change the complexion of this series.

Draisaitl and Hyman due

The Oilers playoff monster that is Draisaitl hasn’t scored in six straight games, and Zach Hyman still hasn’t put one across the line in the Cup Final after a 54-goal season.

These are bad things, sure, but it’s not like they morphed into ineffective offensive guys. At some point, at least one of them is going to have a game, and lord knows Game 5 would be a nice time for that to happen. The more games the Oilers can play, the more likely it is one of these guys gives them a huge night.

Power play finally got one

There’s something about going from snakebitten to finally getting a goal that opens the floodgates. It’s purely mental, so for the Oilers, they’re hoping they can attack Game 5 with their power play mindset of old. Because let’s be real: their power play hasn’t been unbelievable in the Cup Final, yet it’s been the best in the NHL for years now.

If they get that deadly unit clicking now, oh boy.

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Evander Kane could return

Kane’s injury has been a major blow to the Oilers, as he seems like the perfect fit for this type of series. He’s the type of player who doesn’t need 20 minutes of ice and to drive play every shift. He’s the type who can get out there and provide even just a few moments — a big hit, a screen or a tip, a single goal — that the Oilers could desperately use.

And finally,

The Oilers barn is crazy

This makes Game 5 in Florida feel like much higher stakes for the Panthers. If they have to fly back to Edmonton and deal with that barn again, it’s a clear Oilers advantage.

So, Florida is both the team that was up 3-0, and the team with an outcome they’d dread on the horizon if they lost. That means there’s suddenly a ton of pressure on the Panthers, who Paul Maurice has actively sought taking the pressure off all post-season. The vibe has gone from “it’s anyone’s series” a week ago to “If Florida blows this it will be remembered as a choke-job forever,” and that’s a far less fun spot to be in as a team.

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There are more things that could go right for Edmonton, including getting more value from the surging line of Connor Brown with Mattias Janmark and Adam Henrique. Darnell Nurse and Philip Broberg might actually have sneaky good chemistry. For a lot of reasons, hope is alive.

Now, Edmonton is not favoured to win Game 5, as Florida is an elite team that will be paying close attention. But the path to victory is there, and will just take some good fortune to unfold the way the Oilers need it to.

There’s a lot left to chance when you put yourself in a series hole. But that chance can sometimes work out in your favour. For those reasons, it’s not time to say goodbye to the Oilers just yet.

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