Bobrovsky did to McDavid what NY Islanders legend Billy Smith did to Wayne Gretzky

2024 Stanley Cup Final - Game One
2024 Stanley Cup Final - Game One / Elsa/GettyImages

In his first Stanley Cup Final appearance, the game's best player, Connor McDavid, and his Edmonton Oilers were shut out by Sergei Bobrovsky and the Florida Panthers 3-0. 41 years earlier, Wayne Gretzky suffered the same fate in his first Final game when Edmonton was shut out by New York Islanders legend and Hockey Hall of Famer Billy Smith in Game 1 of the 1983 Stanley Cup Final.

The comparison between two events was made by EJ Hradek of the NHL Network following Bobrovsky's 32-save shutout that set an early tone for the Panthers, who are in search of their first Stanley Cup in franchise history, having finished as runner-ups in 1996 and 2023.

Meanwhile, for Oilers fans of a certain generation, the game likely conjured up memories of Smith's masterful performance that frustrated a youthful and explosive Oilers team that felt invincible, even against the three-time Stanley Cup champions.

"Smitty was out of his mind," said Oilers defenseman Kevin Lowe after the Isles' 2-0 win at the Northlands Coliseum. "I played my heart out," Smith acknowledged. The 35-save performance by Smith was considered one of the greatest goaltending performances of all time. "They had a few more chances than we really want to give them, but we came out lucky."

Smith ended up allowing just six goals in the four games and shut out Edmonton in seven of the 12 periods played in the four-game sweep. Time will tell whether Bobrovsky's masterclass against McDavid and the Oilers in Game 1 will lead to the same outcome. “It’s fun to play those guys, those elite guys, and it’s a fun atmosphere," Bobrovsky said after the game. "I am just alive for the opportunity, and I enjoy every second of it.”