Oilers' 8-1 rout a reminder of how the Stanley Cup Final could have played out

Even following the Oilers' impressive win in game 4, the Stanley Cup still seems destined to go to the Panthers, resulting in thoughts of what could have been.
2024 Stanley Cup Final - Game Four
2024 Stanley Cup Final - Game Four / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages

We've previously commented on how when they're on their game, no one in the NHL is better than the Edmonton Oilers. They proved this point emphatically on Saturday night in game four of the Stanley Cup Final, with a 8-1 thrashing of the Florida Panthers.

Everything went right for the Oilers on the night, as they showed exactly what they're capable of and pummelled the Panthers. Connor McDavid showed why he is (still) the best player in the world, Stuart Skinner was sensational between the pipes, and Leon Draisaitl finally woke up to join in with the fun.

We wrote on Saturday about how if any team can come back from a 3-0 series deficit to win it all, it would be the Oilers. However, the odds are still firmly stacked against them doing just this, with only the Toronto Maple Leafs managing the feat previously, all the way back in 1942.

The reality is that the Stanley Cup is still more than likely headed to Florida with the Panthers, for the first time in team history. And with this seeming inevitability looming, it does leave you to wonder about what might have been for the Oilers.

There's no denying that overall, the Panthers have been the better team so far during this series. However, as much as they've outplayed the Oilers, you can make the argument that the two teams should now be tied at 2-2.

Oilers just haven't shown enough of what they're capable of

The reason they're not, is down to a combination of the Oilers not playing up to their true capability consistently enough, making far too many avoidable mistakes, and just not taking advantage of the opportunities they've created. In addition, Sergi Bobrovsky has been outstanding in the Panthers goal -- well, at least prior to Saturday night -- and is the favourite to win the Conn Smythe Trophy.

The prime example of all this came during game one, when it truly was a case of a 3-0 scoreline in the Panthers' favour not even remotely telling the story. The Oilers outshot them 25-12 through two periods (32-18 overall) and dominated for long periods, but just couldn't take advantage of their opportunities, as Bobrovsky stopped everything that came at him.

It remains to be seen if the way the Oilers ripped apart the Panthers in game four, can serve as a turning point for this series. Whether Bobrovsky being pulled after allowing five goals on just 16 shots, will destroy his confidence.

Even allowing for the confidence level of the Panthers goalie and his ability to bounce back, he's now going to have to deal with a revitalised McDavid. As much as the seven-time NHL All-Star did manage three points in the first three games of this series, it was only on Saturday night when he finally played to his true potential and subsequently tore apart the opposition.

McDavid leads the way in record-breaking style

McDavid's four points included three assists, which in the process saw him reach 32 helpers in this postseason, to surpass Wayne Gretzky's all-time record set back in 1988. It truly shows just how special number 97 is, but will it galvanise the Oilers or ultimately serve as a footnote in the Panthers' path to Stanley Cup glory?

For his part, McDavid knows what's most important right now. Speaking to the media postgame, he said: "Obviously not the focus with where we’re at. But not lost on me what (Gretzky) means to the game. Not the focus, yeah."

Of course, even if the Oilers superstar does show more of the same in game five on Tuesday night, he still can't control everything. For example, if the team reverts back to its mistake-prone ways of previous games and/or Bobrovsky bounces back and plays like he did before, then it may not matter how good McDavid is.

This is not about raining on the parade as it were; the Oilers did what was required initially, in actually winning a game in the Stanley Cup Final. They can only take one step at a time, one game at a time, in order to accomplish anything in this series.

Good news on the horizon for Oilers despite Stanley Cup woes. dark. Next. Good news on the horizon for Oilers despite Stanley Cup woes

However, it's tough to escape this sneaking feeling that the rout on Saturday night is merely delaying the Panthers winning the Stanley Cup, as opposed to turning this series around. Of course we will have zero issue in being proven wrong with this, but in the end, the 8-1 win is more likely to haunt the Oilers and their fans, as highlighting the potential of what could have been ...

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