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Panthers and Oilers – Stanley Cup Preview

Is the cup coming back to Canada?

We’re finally here! After 82 regular season games and three rounds of gruelling playoff hockey, the Edmonton Oilers and Florida Panthers are the only teams remaining in the quest for Lord Stanley. With so much talent on the ice between the Panthers and Oilers, we’re expecting an incredibly paced and hard-hitting final series. Both franchises saw their fair share of struggles in the last fifteen years, but now, there’s no doubt that Edmonton and Florida are two of the best teams in the NHL with bright futures still ahead. So, how can they get past the final test and become a part of hockey history? Let’s get into it. 

The Panthers

After last year’s magical postseason run ended in the Finals, Florida is back and looking better than ever. So far this year, the Panthers have rolled through Tampa Bay, Boston, and New York without going past a Game 6. Matt Tkachuk, Alex Barkov and Sergei Bobrovsky have all been fantastic for the team thus far, but the depth and health of the roster has played a large role in Florida’s success as well.

Whether it’s the first or the fourth line, Florida knows how to generate offence. If Stuart Skinner and the Oilers’ defence isn’t ready for that, Edmonton will be in for a very tough series. In the first three rounds, the Panthers have eliminated three of the league’s best goaltenders in Andrei Vasilevskiy, Jeremy Swayman, and Igor Shesterkin with an average of 3.24 goals per game. If they can crack the code to Edmonton’s terrific penalty kill, I do expect them to be scoring a fair amount in this series. Of course, the Oilers can score in a hurry as well, so if things dry up for either team, it might be the difference in the series.

Florida’s other advantage here is their physicality. As important as it’ll be for guys like Matt Tkachuk and Sam Bennett to get on the scoresheet, it’ll be almost just as important for them to continuously pester Edmonton’s superstars. There’s no question that Connor McDavid will be the best player on the ice every time he’s out there, but if Florida can get him frustrated and even slightly off his game, they’ll be a lot closer to winning Lord Stanley. Physicality is one of Florida’s biggest strengths as a team, and they’ll be looking to show it a lot in the Finals.

The Oilers

With a Canadian Stanley Cup drought lasting over thirty years, you can bet that all eyes will be on Edmonton in the great white north. Now, many fans won’t necessarily be cheering for the Oilers, but a Canadian team in the Cup Finals always makes for must-watch television. Oh, and one of the most electrifying players to ever lace the skates up will be playing in his first ever Cup Finals, too. 

If Edmonton wants the glory, they’re going to need to bring the game they played with in the last three games of the Western Conference Finals. Stuart Skinner was playing his best hockey of the postseason, Darnell Nurse was simplifying his game and throwing the body around, the penalty kill was fantastic, and Connor McDavid was Connor McDavid. Sure, the Panthers represent Edmonton’s toughest test so far, but Dallas was also a very good team. After three games, most were expecting the Stars to end up moving on, and instead, the Oilers grinded out three wins in a row. Who’s to say this momentum can’t continue for a little longer?

Another reason Edmonton ended up taking the Western Conference was the improved play of their depth players. With the Panthers and Oilers set for what should be a tightly contested series everywhere on the ice, this needs to continue. Guys like Connor Brown, Ryan McLeod, Mattias Janmark and Corey Perry cannot afford to take even a game in this series off. While you shouldn’t expect them to do the heavy lifting on the scoresheet, their ability to chip in at times offensively to keep momentum going while keeping Florida away from the O-zone will be crucial.

Panthers and Oilers – The Pick

We can’t wait for this Panthers and Oilers series to finally get underway on Saturday. Can the Panthers get it done this time, or will Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl finally get to lift the Stanley Cup after years of dominance? Legacies are on the line, and even though that star power has to count for something, we’re going to take Florida in seven games. The Panthers are driven, focused, and significantly healthier than they were last season. Stuart Skinner was terrific in the last few games against Dallas, but the Panthers have already proven they can get through the very best in net. Edmonton will not go down easily, but the physicality, experience and poise of Florida will be too much in the end. Sorry, Oilers fans!

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