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Stuart Skinner has been on fire for eight games now
Credit: Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images

At the start of the playoffs, Stuart Skinner was a liability for the Oilers. The club had to deal with the fact that their goalie wasn’t getting the job done in front of the net.

At a certain point, when nothing was going right, Calvin Pickard stepped in. He finished game #3 against Vancouver and played in the next two duels. He won game #4.

Since then, Skinner has come back with a vengeance. And let’s just say that in eight games (two against the Canucks and six against the Stars), the goalie is on fire. His 6-2 record, 1.88 GAA and .920 save percentage show that he’s a factor in the Oilers’ presence in the Stanley Cup Final.

Of course, you have to wonder just how whipped he was by losing his net to Vancouver. Is that the only reason he bounced back the way he did?

To what extent, for example, did he benefit from the advice of a specialist in sports psychology?

Connor McDavid may say that everyone knows that without Skinner, the group wouldn’t be here, but you also have to look at the other side of the coin in Skinner’s case.

Two questions come to mind.

  • Will the goalie get back to normal against the mighty Panthers? A guy can’t play above his head for months on end…
  • Would the Oilers play more offensively if they had a goalie they could trust in front of the net?

After all, even if more “obscure” goaltenders won the Stanley Cup in 2022 and 2023, and the last “big duel” between goaltenders in the finals was in 2021 (Andrei Vasilevskiy vs. Carey Price), we agree that the Panthers have the edge in front of the net.

The guys can afford more in Florida than they can in Edmonton, and the Panthers will be happy to face a goalie who isn’t Andrei Vasilevskiy, Jeremy Swayman or Igor Shesterkin.

Does this explain why the Oilers, who will be trying to bring home the Stanley Cup, only took 10 shots on net yesterday against Dallas? With a reliable goalie in front of the net, would the club have taken more chances offensively?

Obviously, this will be a big topic in the final. The Oilers have a good numerical disadvantage, but it will be put to the test when the Panthers have an extra man.

But we all agree that to see the Oilers win, it’s going to take big performances from the best skaters.

Yesterday was a good example. Connor McDavid (one goal, one assist), Leon Draisaitl (one assist), Evan Bouchard (two assists) and Zach Hyman (one goal) all got on the scoresheet. The best were the best.

We might not have bet on the Oilers making it to the finals in 2024 after the coaching change last November (3-10 record after 13 games), but the club stood up. And it did it with… Corey Perry. #WhatAwkwardSeason

Connor McDavid has the chance to make history and put an end to the famous “he’s good, but he’s missing a Cup” discussions in the next few days. He needs to be fully motivated.

Leon Draisaitl, whose future is the subject of numerous rumours, might find it easier to leave Edmonton after beating the Panthers. After all, he’d have his ring.

So yes, there’s plenty to watch out for in the final.

In Brief

– It only starts on Saturday, and it’s going to be a long series. I understand there’s a lot of travel involved, but…

– Vancouver will have the Jonas Brothers at the Grey Cup and 50 Cent to open the Lions’ season. Like it or not?

– Big contract.

– Félix Séguin, privileged in life. [JdeM]

– Containing Connor McDavid has never been easy.

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