June 22, 2024

2024 Stanley Cup Final: Panthers-Oilers schedule, stats, more

From a regular-season batch of 32 groups, to a Stanley Cup playoff discipline of 16, and now down to 2, the NHL’s champion is near being topped for 2024.

A yr after shedding within the Stanley Cup Final to the Vegas Golden Knights, the Florida Panthers are out to complete their story and lift the Cup for the primary time in franchise historical past.

For the Edmonton Oilers, a Stanley Cup would silence all of the “yeah, but” conversations relating to superstars Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, and etch their names among the many franchise greats from 5 prior Cup groups.

Game 1 is Saturday (8 p.m. ET, ABC and ESPN+). Here’s every thing you want to find out about each groups, from key gamers to look at, goaltender confidence scores, and the highest developments for every staff popping out of the convention finals.

Stanley Cup wins: None
How they received right here: Defeated Lightning 4-1, Bruins 4-2, Rangers 4-2

Goalie confidence score: 9 out of 10

Sergei Bobrovsky has been rock strong for the Panthers all through these playoffs. Granted, the staff’s wonderful defensive play has aided Bobrovsky. But the veteran’s regular stream of high quality performances provides Florida simple confidence Bobrovsky will likely be there to make the massive saves.

He has earned a 12-5 document within the postseason, with a .908 save proportion and a pair of.20 goals-against common. The solely playoff starter who has averaged fewer targets in opposition to per recreation than Bobrovsky was Boston’s Jeremy Swayman (and Bobrovsky finally gained that battle when Florida despatched the Bruins packing of their second-round sequence).

Bobrovsky needed to be the Panthers’ hero throughout final season’s run to the Cup finals, and it wore him down ultimately. This yr’s workload has been more manageable, and that ought to set Bobrovsky up for continued success.

What the Eastern Conference finals taught us in regards to the Panthers

Florida is the overall package deal. The Panthers have star energy, scoring depth, elite defensive habits, a top-tier goaltender and — maybe most important of all — innate killer intuition.

The staff was distinctive within the third interval in opposition to the New York Rangers down the stretch of their sequence, successful the ultimate three video games by a one-goal margin. The Panthers additionally shut the Rangers down at 5-on-5 in that span, permitting only one even-strength objective whereas concurrently rendering New York’s once-vaunted energy play utterly ineffective with a stifling penalty kill. And the best way Florida held the Rangers’ elite scorers from producing — Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad mixed for a single objective via six video games — was a byproduct of the Panthers’ full-team buy-in on protection.

At the identical time, Florida will be lethal off the push whereas equally sturdy suppressing these possibilities from going the opposite means. Their skill to make New York pay for errors was one other backbreaker for the Rangers, who could not discover the identical alternatives to do injury. Florida not often gives high quality seems, and Bobrovsky stood tall in opposition to essentially the most obvious breakdowns.



Panthers claw down Rangers to advance to second straight Stanley Cup Final

The Panthers maintain enterprise in opposition to the Rangers in Game 6 to advance to the Stanley Cup Final for the second yr working.

Players who will likely be key to the Cup Final

One of Florida’s strengths could also be its protection in a collective sense. But the Panthers’ defensemen will definitely be within the highlight when the likes of Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Zach Hyman attempt to get rolling.

Gustav Forsling has had a superb postseason going up in opposition to among the hardest opposing matchups, and he has additionally contributed offensively (4 targets and 11 factors). Brandon Montour‘s physicality and lively stick breaking apart rush possibilities has been invaluable. Florida defends nicely and is aggressive in holding shooters to the surface and limiting motion from the slot.

That will likely be vital in stopping the Oilers from working wild. Aaron Ekblad also needs to play a key function in steadying Florida from the again finish — and this yr he will not be taking part in within the Cup Final with a damaged foot. That’s a particular enchancment.

Player who must step up

Carter Verhaeghe was a drive for Florida early within the postseason. His manufacturing has been dwindling, although. Verhaeghe popped in 5 targets in 5 video games in opposition to Tampa Bay, however he has simply 4 targets whole since then. He put solely two photographs on web within the last two video games of the convention finals and wasn’t practically as seen for the Panthers in creating alternatives across the web (though Igor Shesterkin did make a notable save on Verhaeghe in Game 6).

All of that’s to say, Verhaeghe must recapture his first-series type within the Cup finals. There will likely be a laundry record of succesful scorers throughout the ice — and a few clearly elite abilities, too — and the Panthers cannot afford any passengers of their group. Verhaeghe can completely be a difference-maker for Florida and drive its offense. Now is the time for him to shift gears.

Is there a training edge for the Panthers?

The Cup finals will function two head coaches at reverse ends of the NHL spectrum. Florida coach Paul Maurice has been within the league for 20 years, and he has now reached three Cup Finals (two with Florida). Edmonton’s Kris Knoblauch hasn’t even coached a whole NHL season but, having changed Jay Woodcroft in November as his first gig within the league. Will expertise be an element for both facet?

The Oilers have responded nicely to Knoblauch, and their on-ice success since he took over is abundantly clear. But when evenly matched opponents like Florida and Edmonton conflict, there may be typically an X issue that emerges to separate the edges, one thing more intangible. Things equivalent to a vital line change, or realizing when to take a timeout, or with the ability to learn the demeanor of your staff and modify accordingly. All of that will likely be heightened given the stakes within the Cup Final.

We’ve already seen within the playoffs how well-timed teaching selections have helped safe wins in tight contests. The margins for error on this sequence will likely be slim. The edge might lie not with who’s sitting on the bench, however standing behind it.

Stanley Cup wins: 1990, 1988, 1987, 1985, 1984
How they received right here: Defeated Kings 4-1, Canucks 4-3, Stars 4-2

Goalie confidence score: 9 out of 10

There have been actually questions on Stuart Skinner earlier this postseason. But how he has carried out since Game 6 of the second spherical has solely added to what makes the Oilers such an issue within the defensive zone. They enter the Stanley Cup Final permitting simply 25.1 photographs per recreation, the third fewest amongst 2024 playoff groups.

With a penalty kill that held the Dallas Stars to zero targets via the convention finals, the Oilers have one of many strongest defensive identities within the league.

Complementing that with a constant model of Skinner — who had a 1.95 goals-against common in opposition to the Stars — solely provides to the argument that the Oilers is likely to be essentially the most full staff within the playoffs.

What the Western Conference finals taught us in regards to the Oilers

That anybody who nonetheless believes this staff is simply Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid has not been paying consideration. The path they took to beat the Stars within the Western Conference finals is proof.

In the Oilers’ victories in Games 4 and 5, they acquired key targets from gamers equivalent to Mattias Janmark, Ryan McLeod, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Philip Broberg. Their penalty kill was excellent in opposition to the Stars, together with going 3-for-3 within the pivotal Game 6.

They’ve developed a two-way identification that has allowed them to play comfortably in one-goal video games, together with the closeout in Game 6. They’ve made objective prevention a critical element to their success, and it has solely added to the looming risk that the Oilers might escape to attain more than 4 targets in a recreation as nicely.

A staff that has been billed as an offensive juggernaut has proven it may be the entire package deal.

Players who will likely be key to the Cup Final

The Oilers have Draisaitl and McDavid, a pair of elite forwards who’ve 4 Hart Trophies between them. But once more, they’re more than that.

Zach Hyman has given them a forechecking winger who can management the web entrance. They have a puck-moving defenseman in Evan Bouchard, who, together with Mattias Ekholm, provides the Oilers a trusted high pairing.

This postseason has elevated Nugent-Hopkins’ profile as a two-way participant due to what he has been in a position to do at 5-on-5, on the penalty kill and on the ability play; he could possibly be their most necessary ahead not named Draisaitl or McDavid.

There’s additionally what Darnell Nurse achieved in opposition to Dallas, going from a determine below scrutiny to being one of many Oilers’ most constant gamers to shut out the sequence. That contains logging more than 21 minutes with three hits whereas not being on the ice for a objective in opposition to in Game 6. That model of Nurse can be instrumental in serving to seize the franchise’s first title since 1990.



Oilers rejoice advancing to the Stanley Cup Final

The Oilers grasp on to defeat the Stars in a busy end to advance to the Stanley Cup Final.

Player who must step up

Evander Kane. At his greatest, Kane is a bodily energy ahead who could cause issues within the slot and on the web entrance, with a shot that may additionally make him harmful on the perimeter. That has made him one of many NHL’s most constant objective scorers over his profession, with a run of 9 seasons with more than 20.

It’s additionally what makes his latest scoring drought (six straight video games, going again to Game 7 of the second spherical in opposition to the Vancouver Canucks) so puzzling.

Kane opened the convention finals with 9 photographs in his first two video games, solely to then document 4 photographs mixed in Games 3, 4 and 5. He was moved down from the second line to the third line because of this in Game 5, leading to a major decline in his work fee in comparison with his first two postseasons with the Oilers.

It’s potential Kane could possibly be injured going into the Stanley Cup Final. After delivering a verify early in Game 6, he skated to the bench and logged solely 4:39 of ice time by way of 9 shifts.

Hiring Kris Knoblauch could possibly be the newest transfer in a sure development

Moving on from Jay Woodcroft and hiring Kris Knoblauch not solely saved the Oilers’ season, however allowed them to succeed in the Stanley Cup Final for the primary time in practically 20 years. Whether the Oilers win the Cup or not, the transfer raises a debate in regards to the expectations for an NHL coach in his first season with a brand new staff.

This development began in 2019, when Craig Berube, who had 161 video games of NHL head-coaching expertise, was made the interim coach of the St. Louis Blues … and gained the Stanley Cup in what was his first of five-plus seasons with the membership.

A yr later, veteran coach Rick Bowness was an interim who guided the Dallas Stars to the Cup Final.

In 2021, Dominique Ducharme, an interim coach with no earlier NHL head-coaching expertise, guided the Montreal Canadiens to a Cup Final.

Last yr noticed Bruce Cassidy, who had 500-plus video games of expertise, win a title in his first marketing campaign with the Vegas Golden Knights.

It’s a development that continues with Knoblauch, whose head-coaching roles had beforehand been within the AHL and junior hockey. Knoblauch has the possibility to be the primary coach since Dan Bylsma in 2009 to win the title in his first yr behind an NHL bench.