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Oilers confident they can solve goalie Bobrovsky

FT. LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Florida Panthers goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky was impenetrable in their 3-0 Stanley Cup Final Game 1 victory over Edmonton. But the Oilers are confident that they can find ways to beat him.

“He’s a good goalie,” Edmonton star Leon Draisaitl said Sunday. “He’s going to make some big-time saves. Knowing that is important. With our group we’re always going to get our looks. We’re always going to get chances. Continue to play loose and just play our game.”

Bobrovsky stopped all 32 shots he faced in Game 1. He held the line in the first period, when the Panthers were outshot 12-4. He made six saves on the penalty kill, where Florida went 3-for-3 against a unit that was converting at over 37% after three rounds of the playoffs. He turned aside three Edmonton breakaways, including a pad stop on Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to preserve the Florida lead.

Edmonton coach Kris Knoblauch wouldn’t go as far as to say that Bobrovsky stole Game 1.

“It’s fair to say that he played really well, but I think there’s just things that we can do that are in our control that we could have made more on our chances,” he said. “He definitely made some big saves, but I think there were some missed opportunities where we just missed the net or didn’t get the shot that we wanted.”

Knoblauch also doesn’t believe the Game 1 shutout is something that will get in his players’ heads.

“We have to just put ourselves in a position to get good-quality scoring chances and bear down on those opportunities. And if we’re playing well, they’ll go our way,” he said. “As good as any goaltender can play against us, we’ll get some production.”

One area where the Oilers could improve is in their placement of shots. Bobrovsky has given up 38 goals this postseason. Of those, 31 have been high-glove or high-blocker side. He’s tremendous down low, and hasn’t given up a single 5-hole goal in the playoffs.

“Obviously, you want to get it high, that’s your best chance,” said Nugent-Hopkins, who regretted not lifting his breakaway opportunity on Bobrovsky. “He’s an athletic goalie, so he’s going to take out most of the bottom of the net. We had a few looks like that where you think you got him, but he doesn’t quit on it.”

Bobrovsky was a key to the Panthers keeping the Oilers’ power play scoreless. They got some looks, but the Florida goalie saw them cleanly.

“They have a great power play,” Panthers defenseman Gustav Forsling said. “I think you could see how effective they can be. We kept them on the outside and let Bob see the puck most of the time. So I think we stick with it. Keep putting the pressure on.”

Edmonton star Connor McDavid led his team with six shots on goal. The playoffs’ leading scorer with 31 points, he was dangerous all night. But he couldn’t get through the Panthers’ last line of defense either.

“He’s going to make plays and sometimes he dangles you,” Florida defenseman Niko Mikkola said. “But that’s why we have a Bobby.”

In other series news, the health of Oilers forward Evander Kane was a topic of conversation. Kane was a minus-1 and, for the second straight game, didn’t attempt a shot on goal in the opener. In his past eight games, he has only one assist.

Kane has been dealing with a sports hernia all season. He has tried to manage it by not practicing and skating much on off days.

“It doesn’t affect my upper body,” Kane said earlier in the playoffs. “Anybody who’s had that type of injury understands that it’s more skating, quickness and agility that can really affect you.”

Knoblauch acknowledged that Kane isn’t himself.

“Obviously, he’s not the Evander Kane that he was a couple of years ago, or even when I came here,” said the coach, who was hired last November. “He was scoring at will, putting up a pretty good season. And then he had to take some time off with some injuries and maintenance days.”

Kane had 24 goals and 20 assists in 77 regular-season games.

“Evander has been good for our team,” Knoblauch said. “He’s maybe not showing up on the score sheet as much as has in the past, but still contributing to our team and I don’t think we’d be where we are today if Evander hadn’t been playing throughout the playoffs.”

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