Stanley Cup Final Preview: Edmonton Oilers vs Florida Panthers

Edmonton Oilers v Florida Panthers - Stanley Cup Final Preview
Edmonton Oilers v Florida Panthers - Stanley Cup Final Preview / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages
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The 2024 Stanley Cup Final matchup is finalized, and unfortunately for us Toronto Maple Leafs fans, we are once again stuck having to choose sides rather than watching our team fight for the Cup.

But on a lighter note, Canada will be represented in the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 2021, when the Montreal Canadiens lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Before that, it was the Vancouver Canucks in 2011.

The Edmonton Oilers have made the run and will represent Canada in this year's Cup final.

They will be looking to bring the Cup back to Canada after a 31-year draught, whereas their opponents, the Florida Panthers, will play for the Stanley Cup for the second straight year.

Stanley Cup Final Preview: Edmonton Oilers vs Florida Panthers

While the Maple Leafs may not participate in this series, their footprint is all over it.

Former Maple Leafs head coach Paul Maurice, now considered to be one of the best coaches in the NHL, is behind the Florida Panthers bench.

The Panthers also have two players who have made an enormous impact this postseason: Carter Verhaeghe and Evan Rodrigues, two players the Maple Leafs had in their organization but didn't give a chance to.

On the Oilers side, you have two former Leafs, Zach Hyman and Cody Ceci. Ceci only spent one year with the team, but Hyman spent his first six seasons with the Maple Leafs before the front office decided that it wasn't a very good idea to give an eight-year contract doubling the salary of their 5th best forward.

Looking back on that situation, I would pay Hyman the 5.5 million dollars but that's hindsight. At the time, a 30 year-old player with a history of poor playoff performance and two previous knee injuries did not seem like a very good bet.

Edmonton Oilers vs. Florida Panthers Stanley Cup Final Preview

At the start of the NHL season, sportsbook odds makers gave the Oilers a 9.09% chance of winning the Stanley Cup and the Panthers a 4.76% chance. But now, with all the dust settled and the Cup final matchup set, oddsmakers have flipped and made the Panthers slight favourites in this series, implying that they have a 56.52% chance of winning this series.

While the Panthers are favored in this series, the Oilers have the two best players, Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. These two are the sole reason the Panthers are slight favorites rather than the massive ones they should be.

McDavid and Draisaitl lead all players in points in the playoffs by a wide margin. McDavid has recorded 31 total points; the closest Panther to that is Matthew Tkachuk, with 19 points. Throughout the playoffs, the Oilers have averaged 0.25 more goals per game than the Panthers, but the Panthers have made up for that by allowing 0.30 fewer goals per game than the Oilers.

These stats might lead you to say the Oilers have been the better offensive team in this series. However, the Panthers lead all teams in the playoffs, averaging 3.5 expected goals per game compared to the Oilers 3.08.

This discrepancy is because the Panthers have had to deal with much stronger goaltending than the Oilers have had to face. The Panthers have made it past Andrei Vasilevskiy, Jeremy Swayman and Igor Shesterkin. In contrast, the Oilers faced Cam Talbot, a combination of Arturs Silovs, Casey Desmith and Jake Oettinger, who was average in the Western Conference final. The difference in goaltending these two teams faced in the playoffs can be shown by the Panthers scoring 5.9 goals less than expected and the Oilers scoring 6.05 more goals than expected.

While on goaltending, let's talk about the two guys we will see between the pipes in this series. Sergei Bobrovsky has not had to work too hard throughout this playoff run but has been phenomenal when he's been tested. Among goalies who have made 10 starts in the playoffs, Bobrovsky has the best high-danger save percentage and the second lowest goals against average. At the other end, Stuart Skinner will at least start the series in the Oilers net. Skinner has been highly streaky throughout the playoffs.

In the Western Conference Finals, Skinner saved 3.46 goals above expected but has still let in 3.2 more goals than expected in his 16 playoff starts. The advantage here in the net goes to the Panthers, but despite some struggles, Skinner has already stolen a couple of games for the Oilers this playoffs.

What has ultimately led both of these teams to meet in the Stanley Cup Final is their penalty kill units. These two teams have a penalty kill percentage above 88% for the playoffs. With the Panthers proving they can stay out of the penalty box in their series against the Rangers, most of the offence will have to come at five-on-five for both teams. (stats nhl.com).

The Panthers have the best goal share and best-expected goal percentage at five-on-five among playoff teams.

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Their goal percentage is four per cent better than the Oilers, and the Oilers have an expected goal percentage under 50% at five-on-five. This has the potential to be a quick series if McDavid and Draisaitl can't find a way to play better than they already have.