Skip to main content


Oilers seeking inspiration from many places as they try to dig out of 3-0 hole against Panthers

Vincent Desharnais Paul Coffey Evan Bouchard Edmonton Oilers Vincent Desharnais Paul Coffey Evan Bouchard - The Canadian Press

To climb out of a 3-0 playoff hole and extend their season, the Edmonton Oilers are turning to one of the few players in NHL history to have pulled off the feat. 

Former Chicago Blackhawks defenceman Duncan Keith, now a consultant with the Oilers, spoke to some players ahead of Game 4, where Edmonton will try to stave off elimination at home against the Florida Panthers.

Keith was on a Blackhawks squad that was down 3-0 to the Vancouver Canucks in the 2011 quarter-finals and forced a Game 7, which they lost in overtime.

His message was simple: approach it one game at a time, and things have the potential to snowball in a hurry. 

“Nothing too formal, just going around,” head coach Kris Knoblauch said of Keith's interactions with the group.

“When you have a good team and a lot of good players who believe, things can happen. A lot of things have to work out. You’ve got to get some bounces and make some plays. You need everybody to contribute. I think we can do that.”

Oilers blueliner Brett Kulak said Keith stressed that it takes just one victory to turn the tide.

 “It happens fast,” Kulak said. “The games come quick. You get a win, you keep going, and all of a sudden you build momentum, and you can get back in a series pretty fast.”

Forward Corey Perry is the only player in league history to have been to the Cup Final with five different teams. His only ring came back in 2007 when he was 22. Now, the 39-year-old is preaching to teammates that these moments simply don’t come along often in a career.

“You don’t know how many more [of these opportunities] you’re gonna have,” he said.

“When I won…17 years ago, it was pretty special. I was 22 years old and had just came into the league. It took me 12 years to get back to the final. You can’t take these things for granted. You have to lay it out on the line because you might never get that chance again…there’s only a few guys [on our team] that have played in the final and there are some guys in that room that might not get back to the final.”

Panthers head coach Paul Maurice is taking a similar approach. 

He’s coached the second-most games in NHL history (1,982, including playoffs) and has yet to win the Stanley Cup. After the morning skate, he emphasized how much he’s savouring a morning where he woke up with the possibility of hoisting the Stanley Cup.

He communicated informally with players on the ice and tried to keep the mood light ahead of what could be a historic moment. 

“You grab a guy, tap him on his pad, and talk about a play,” he said.

“You’ll get around a couple of guys and say, ‘Hey, that back check in the second [period] was unbelievable.’…just to acknowledge that they’ve done something great…I’ll tell the odd joke, but nobody thinks I’m funny anymore.”

Maurice will then address his group honestly about the night ahead.

“We’ll be very open about what’s different about today,” he said.

“And then our challenge will be to not have that translate into the hockey.”

The squads are in very different positions, but both are focused on embracing the moment. They want players to take stock of their surroundings and appreciate that they’re competing for the Stanley Cup – regardless of whether they’re up or down 3-0. 

“If you can’t enjoy today, this morning skate - what the hell are ya doing?” Maurice asked.

Forward Zach Hyman has authored children’s books, and Knoblauch said that he might need to write another one if the Oilers pull off the unlikely comeback.

“The message has been to enjoy it,” Knoblauch said.

“Hopefully Zach Hyman can write a storybook about this when it’s all said and done.”