The Coaches Room is a regular feature throughout the 2023-24 season by former NHL coaches and assistants who turn their critical gaze to the game and explain it through the lens of a teacher.

In this edition, Paul MacLean, former coach of the Ottawa Senators and assistant with the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, Detroit Red Wings, Columbus Blue Jackets and Toronto Maple Leafs, looks at Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final between the Edmonton Oilers and Florida Panthers on Monday (8 p.m. ET; ABC, ESPN+, SN, TVAS, CBC).

The Oilers battled back from a 3-0 deficit in the best-of-7 series and are trying to become only the second team in NHL history to win the Stanley Cup after losing the first three games of the Final. In the 28 previous instances where a team has lost the first three games of the Final, only the 1942 Maple Leafs against the Red Wings were able to battle back and win the Stanley Cup.

MacLean twice was involved in a Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Final. He was an assistant with Anaheim in 2003 when it lost 3-0 to the New Jersey Devils, and with Detroit in 2009 when it lost 2-1 to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Anyone who’s been a little boy and dreamed of playing in the National Hockey League is always in the backyard rink or in the driveway scoring the winning goal in Game 7 in overtime to win the Stanley Cup, so that’s a big part of it for those who have been involved in the game.

Personally, I never played in a Game 7, but I was involved as a coach in Game 7 twice, with the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in 2003 against the New Jersey Devils and with the Detroit Red Wings in 2009 against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

In my experience, in both of those situations, the first goal won and it wasn’t necessarily a guy that you would think would score.

Mike Rupp scored for the Devils, and Max Talbot had two goals for the Penguins. Game 7 can set the table for anybody to be a hero, the goalie or any player on the roster can be a hero and win you the Stanley Cup, and I think that’s the part that gets everybody excited is that you have an opportunity of putting your name on something that’s going to be there for a long, long time.

The momentum is clearly in Edmonton’s favor going into Game 7, winning three games to get there, and they’re on the road. I think the road team has a bit of an advantage getting to Game 7; there is no show to put on and they can just go out there and be themselves.

But at the same time they’re both playing for the same thing, and it’s the same for both now. The pressure is there for them to win it and the anxiety is there.

For the Edmonton players now, they have to think about what they’re going to do with this opportunity and the advantage could be to Florida, because they’ve had three games to think about it, so they might be over it by now.

In my opinion, the only pressure Edmonton had before was to extend the season. They weren’t playing for the Cup.

They played three games and they didn’t have an opportunity to win the Cup until Monday night, and they get one chance. That’s what makes it such a hard trophy to win, is that you don’t get too many opportunities to do it.

Right now, Florida has wasted three opportunities, but they still have another chance. It’s still there in front of them, and I think the momentum pendulum swings pretty heavy on the first goal of Game 7.

I think what changed in this series was the way the Oilers were able to exit their zone. They stretched the neutral zone, they made the zone harder for the Panthers to cover, they took away Florida’s aggressive pinch and forecheck. But also what I think was a big thing is that Edmonton got its power play going.

If the Oilers’ power play is scoring, then the Panthers can’t take penalties and I think that changed the type of game that Florida played. It changed the Panthers’ game where they couldn’t take penalties because they couldn’t kill them, and I think that’s been a big momentum shift in how they’ve adjusted to exits in the neutral zone and the power play coming to life.

Edmonton has a huge advantage with Connor McDavid. When you have the best player, he has an opportunity to break the game open at any time.

There’s going to be a lot of attention on him. Florida is going to make it difficult for him, but McDavid certainly has the capability where he can command the game and totally make a difference and I don’t think the Panthers really have a guy like that, unless it’s Sergei Bobrovsky and he makes the difference like he did in Games 1 and 2.

It’s going to be an exciting game to watch, and I’m looking forward to it. It’s a great opportunity for both teams and it should be a great series finale.

I think going into a Game 7, there’s a different vibe from everyone. I think everyone tries to stay as normal as possible, but to tell you the truth, I think everyone is a little bit scared.

You don’t want to be the guy that makes the mistake that ends up costing you the Stanley Cup. There’s a little bit of fear in there mixed with a little bit of confidence. You gain a little more confidence shift by shift as things go your way or you get into the game, but at the start there’s a lot of guys scared.

I think it’s been a great end to a great NHL season. There’s a lot of great teams and a lot of great strategies with coaching and players developing.

I think it’s been a great playoff, and it’s going to be something that everyone is going to miss before we start up again.