Oilers need to ‘keep testing’ Panthers goalie Bobrovsky as Stanley Cup final comes to Edmonton

WATCH ABOVE: Panthers' Kevin Stenlund and Kyle Okposo discuss how phenomenal it is to have Sergei Bobrovsky as their last line of defence, and why his success is not by accident, but because how "dialed in" he is in his preparation.

Florida Panthers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky has turned away 50 of 51 shots through the first two games of the Stanley Cup final.

The vaunted Edmonton Oilers’ power-play hasn’t scored in seven opportunities.

If these trends continue, it will be an awfully short final series that could end as early as Saturday night.

But as the scene shifts to Edmonton for Thursday’s Game 3, the Oilers don’t feel Bobrovsky is in their heads — or that they have to make a lot of tweaks on special teams. What they need is to get more pucks to the net.

“Nope, there’s no frustration,” said winger Zach Hyman, who leads the playoffs with 14 goals, but, like most of his teammates, was snakebit through the first two games in Florida. “We’ve had a lot of looks. A couple of posts. What can you do? We’ll keep going at it.

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“(The power-play) is pretty proven over the course of the playoffs, over the course of the year, over how many years it’s been together. We don’t get frustrated.”

“I thought in Game 1, on a couple of our powers we had some really good looks,” added forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. “We obviously weren’t able to break them.”

The Oilers hit the iron twice in their final power play of Game 2, so there is a feeling that they’re close — or just plain unlucky.

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“When we’re just playing and reading situations, that’s when we’re at our best,” Nugent-Hopkins. said “But I think in Game 1 we were clicking and working pretty hard and winning battles. We’ve got to stay confident in the power. Against Dallas, we didn’t score until Game 5. You’ve got to be ready to score at the opportune moments.”

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Connor McDavid, who is tops in the playoffs with 32 points, said that Florida has an unusual combination. Teams that often play aggressive, physical games are often vulnerable on the rush. They accept that being aggressive in the offensive and neutral zones can leave them vulnerable in the back.

But the Panthers are aggressive, and are able to limit chances against. McDavid said the Oilers can’t count on getting a lot of looks — they just need to convert on the ones they get.

“They’re playing aggressive, in-your-face,” said McDavid. “For a team as aggressive as they are, they do a great job limiting your chances.

“You’ve got to ready. It’s about being ready for your opportunity and making it count.”

Before the final began, Oilers’ goalie Stuart Skinner called Bobrovsky the most athletic, flexible netminder in the league. He’s exceptional at covering the bottom half of the net. Mattias Ekholm’s Game 2 goal, the Oilers’ lone tally so far in the series, beat the Russian netminder through the legs.

The majority of goals Bobrovsky has given up in the playoffs has been over the blocker shoulder or the glove, but the Oilers have instead banged a lot of chances off his pads.

The Oilers, however, believe it’s about shot volume.

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“Keep testing him, we’ve just got to keep putting pucks on him, getting second and third opportunities.” said Nugent-Hopkins. “We’ve got to get guys in front of him. Obviously, you can’t expect to score if you don’t shoot the puck. We’ve got to keep shooting and break him down that way.”

Click to play video: 'Edmonton Oilers hoping to bring the Stanley Cup home after 3 decades'
Edmonton Oilers hoping to bring the Stanley Cup home after 3 decades

The Oilers mustered just 19 shots in Game 2. Hyman doesn’t think they’ve tested Bobrovsky enough.

“So, just get more shots, get guys to the net. It’s the same with any goalie. You get guys to the net, you get more shots, you get more looks, the more opportunities you get, you’re going to score.”

McDavid said the Oilers have dug themselves out of several holes this season. In mid-November, the team was in second-last in the Western Conference, and weren’t that far ahead of the doormat San Jose Sharks. In the second round, they were down 3-2 to the Vancouver Canucks, but rallied in two straight elimination games.

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“Our group has willed our way out of situations, and we have the opportunity to do that in this series as well,” said McDavid. “I look forward for the opportunity, one last time, for our group to find a way to dig our way out.”

Defenceman Darnell Nurse and winger Evander Kane did not take part in Wednesday’s practice. Nurse was hampered in Game 2 by injury, while Kane has not been practising, but has been available for games.

Coach Kris Knoblauch said he is “confident” Nurse will be available for Game 3.

Florida Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov was knocked out of the game midway through the third period Monday after Edmonton forward Leon Draisaitl hit him in the head.

Barkov practiced with the team Wednesday morning ahead of Florida’s trip to Edmonton for Game 3.

Panthers coach Paul Maurice said the team will make a final decision about Barkov’s Game 3 status before Thursday night’s game, but the star “felt better.”

— with files from Alanis Thames, The Associated Press

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