Florida Panthers v Edmonton Oilers - Game Four

SUNRISE, FL – The serenades of ‘Stuuuuuuu!’ are getting louder and more frequent as the Oilers close in on the Panthers in the Stanley Cup Final, with none bigger than the praise he received back on Saturday after making a monstrous save at a critical point in the first period of his team's lop-sided win.

Goaltender Stuart Skinner couldn’t have picked a better time to posterize his performance in Game 4 than in the opening frame, when he denied Carter Verhaeghe with a game-defining save that ultimately ended up getting buried on what was a night of many positive exploits from the Oilers in their 8-1 win over the Panthers.

The 25-year-old shot-stopper came up clutch by coming across the crease on a two-on-one to take away the Florida forward’s fluttered one-timer with a lunging chest save before he covered the puck, keeping it 2-1 after the Panthers scored 39 seconds earlier on a tip-in from Vladimir Tarasenko to cut into the Edmonton lead.

“Yeah. It was a good time to make that save, to say the least,” Skinner said. “They made a nice play and they were able to get a two-on-one. I think it was Bennett who made the pass. He made a really nice pass, made it hard on our D, and I was able to get across and make the save.

“In moments like that, you're just trying your absolute hardest just to get over and get big, and the puck was able to hit me and the rest of the game happened.”

Skinner sprawls across his crease to make a stop on Verhaeghe

Amongst all the major performances the Oilers received in Game 4 at Rogers Place to keep their season rolling and send the series back to Amerant Bank Arena, the netminder’s 32-save night that included 11 stops while shorthanded was easily the most unheralded of them all in the eyes of his teammates.

“Absolutely. He was amazing last game,” Leon Draisaitl said following Monday’s practice. “I mean, they still fired I don't know, 32 shots or something? However many saves he had, he made very timely and big saves and they were big for us.”

"That was a message-sender," Connor Brown said post-game on Sunday. "Obviously there's been a lot of talk about Bobrovsky these first three games, but we've got a young kid in goal who's an old soul playing way above it."

Skinner’s strong night was a major improvement when it comes to his Goals Saved Above Expected (GSAx) in the Stanley Cup Final, posting a 2.38 GSAx in Game 4 after going through Games 1, 2 and 3 of the series with an expected rate of -2.98 – as pointed out by Stathetes' Meghan Chayka – a result of more chances being buried by his teammates up front and his ability to come up with the key save.

Darnell & Stuart address the media after practice on Monday

Since taking a two-game reset during the Second Round against Vancouver, Skinner has been terrific with a .913 save percentage and 2.08 goals-against average over 12 games and is now 3-0 in the 2024 playoffs when facing elimination following his 32-save night on Saturday.

During those do-or-die games, the Edmonton product owns a 1.33 GAA and a .938 SV% while stopping 61 of the 65 shots he's faced. He's a clutch 8-0 over Games 4-7 of this post-season campaign, with his unfettering determination to be the best version of himself seemingly reaching a different level when the games matter even more.

"It's going through those types of experiences that really help show you who you are," Skinner said. "I think what happened in Vancouver did a number of things to me. I think it pissed me off, first and foremost. I was able to get some time to myself, get a reset to kind of calm things down and work on my game. I was able to get a couple of practices in, and after that, I just really wanted to be the guy to help my team win.

"It really sucked being on the bench after what happened, and that just really pushed me to find my game and do absolutely everything I could, no matter what happens, to fight my way into giving the team a chance to win every night."

"Going through something like that, it's funny. In the moment it feels like the worst thing ever, and then a couple of weeks later, you look back on it and you're just nothing but grateful for it."

Like Brown said post-game on Saturday, the netminder speaks and performs almost beyond his years.

Draisaitl added that one of his best qualities is shaking off a bad result and returning with a great one the next chance he gets.

"I think he's just a very mature guy," Draisaitl said. "One quality I really appreciate about him is the way he responds. Sometimes in this league, that's what it's all about. It's all about the response. This league's too good to be amazing every single night. It doesn't work that way. The league's too good, but it's all about how you respond the next day and how you show up.

"I'm very impressed with the way he handles that."