Oilers, Panthers coaches ‘don’t believe in momentum at all’ before Game 5 of Cup Final

NHL: Stanley Cup Final-Florida Panthers at Edmonton Oilers
Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

The Edmonton Oilers kept their championship aspirations alive after delivering an 8-1 thumping to the Florida Panthers in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final on Saturday. 

It was a rousing success for the Oilers, whose special teams finally found their groove after going 0-for-10 on the man advantage in the three games prior, in addition to their stars reclaiming their goal-scoring ways.

Oil Country hopes that success will translate into Game 5 on Tuesday in Sunrise, Florida.

Can it?

Oilers coach Kris Knoblauch downplayed the notion that their massive victory in Game 4 has any bearing on the game Tuesday in Florida.

“I believe in momentum, and that it lasts from shift to shift. Other than that, from game to game, period to period, I don’t think it does,” Knobaluch stated before leaving Edmonton.

That “shift-to-shift momentum” was in full effect in Game 4. All four Edmonton lines lit the lamp, and defenseman Darnell Nurse scored his first goal of the playoffs. Fifteen of the 18 Edmonton skaters recorded at least one points. And the Oilers scored eight goals in one game after scoring four in the first three combined.

“Say line 1 has a strong shift, and spends a lot of time in the offensive zone. I believe in that momentum, it helps out the lines two and three after them. Things change very quickly,” Knoblauch explained.

That’s exactly what we saw Saturday night.

Connor McDavid led the way with four points, allowing the second line to finally break through after falling silent in the first three games of the series.

Edmonton stars Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins etched their names onto the score sheet for the first time in the series.

Dylan Holloway had two goals and an assist, snapping his nine-game pointless streak.

Mattias Janmark scored while Edmonton was shorthanded, and fourth-liner Ryan McLeod scored his second goal of the series.

Related: 2024 Stanley Cup Final: Winners and loser from Game 4 between Panthers and Oilers

Coaches agree that momentum doesn’t guarantee anything in Stanley Cup Final series

NHL: Stanley Cup Final - Media Day
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Similar to Knoblauch, Paul Maurice is also skeptical of “momentum”. The Panthers coach believes that Florida’s poor showing will not be reflected in Game 5.

“I don’t believe in momentum at all. You reestablish your game and come back in the fight,” Maurice stated.

The Panthers need to reestablish their game. Game 4 was a complete debacle.

The Oilers scored five of their eight goals from the slot, a massive departure from the previous pattern of the Panthers defense relegating Edmonton’s attackers to the outside. 

Goalie Sergei Bobrovsky had no answer for the onslaught, allowing five goals on 16 shots. Maurice pulled him for backup Anthony Stolarz just five minutes into the second period.

It was a brutal game for Florida. Maurice knew it.

“Not a lot of silver linings, but ‘Bob’ got some rest.”

Related: 2024 Stanley Cup Final: Key takeaways from Oilers’ 8-1 win in Game 4 against Panthers

Confidence, not momentum, could be key for Oilers

NHL: Stanley Cup Final-Florida Panthers at Edmonton Oilers
Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

If momentum is a non-factor, then confidence is the next best thing. 

Despite his comments on “momentum”, Knoblauch was careful to not undersell the importance of Saturday’s big victory.

“After a game like that, they feel good about themselves, they feel confident. I think even when we were down three games to zero, our team felt confident about how they can play.”

Does confidence show on the ice?

It does. We saw it multiple times in Game 4 from the Edmonton offense, throwing caution to the wind when they held the puck.

Aggressive stretch passes and desperate skating prevented Florida from stopping Edmonton on the rush, an area of the game where Florida excelled for the first three games.

A newfound sense of urgency in the Oilers game was previously overshadowed by a fear of turning the puck over and getting beat by a physical and relentless Florida forecheck.

The change in attitude was so evident that Maurice noticed the confidence shift in Edmonton’s game, but reemphasized that it doesn’t directly contribute to game-to-game success.

“Good players will get confidence from scoring. They’ll feel good. And then the puck’s gonna drop, and everything changes then,” Maurice reminded the media.

We’ll see if confidence, not momentum, will be enough for the Oilers when they once again try to stave off elimination in Game 5 on Tuesday.

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