2024 Stanley Cup Final: Key takeaways from Panthers 2-1 Game 7 win over Oilers

Stanley Cup Final
Credit: Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports

In their 30th season, the Florida Panthers won their first Stanley Cup championship thanks to a brilliant performance from netminder Sergei Bobrovsky (23 saves) in a 2-1 defeat of the Edmonton Oilers in Game 7 at Amerant Bank Arena on Monday night.

With the championship victory, the Panthers avoided becoming only the second team in NHL history to lose the Stanley Cup Final after jumping out to a 3-0 series lead. Unlike the 1942 Detroit Red Wings, who were reversed swept by the Toronto Maple Leafs, they followed the 1945 Maple Leafs’ path to glory. This allowed the Red Wings to force a Game 7 after building up a 3-0 series lead but held on for a Game 7 victory.

In one of the recent most memorable championship series, the Panthers bent but never broke, holding off Conn Smythe Trophy winner Connor McDavid (42 points) and the Oilers in the winner-take-all contest.

Florida will prepare a Stanley Cup parade now that the season is over. At the same time, the Oilers will retool and lay out their strategy to return to the Final and achieve a different result in 2025, just like the Panthers, who lost in the 2023 Final.

Until then, we have one final takeaway from the 2023-24 season, Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final.

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Bobrovsky saves his best performance for Game 7

NHL: Stanley Cup Final-Edmonton Oilers at Florida Panthers
Credit: Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports

Sergei Bobrovsky surrendered just one goal in Game 7, a breakaway tally from Mattias Janmark in the first period, before backstopping the Panthers to their first Stanley Cup title with 23 saves. The 35-year-old may have earned a shutout in Game 1 and gave up four goals between Games 2 and 3, but imploded in the three games the Oilers won, giving up 12 goals in the losses.

In the most important game of this career, he was sharp. Whether kicking out rebounds or snatching pucks out of the air, Bobrovsky is the heart and soul of the Panthers, and he saved one of his best performances for the game’s grandest stage.

After helping Florida build a 3-0 series lead, many experts considered Bobrovsky the favorite to win the Conn Smythe Trophy. Although that didn’t happen, the Panthers’ netminder is the reason the franchise has played over 200 games in the past two seasons and heads into the summer as Stanley Cup champions.

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Oilers ran out of gas in the most crucial game of Stanley Cup Final

NHL: Stanley Cup Final-Edmonton Oilers at Florida Panthers
Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

According to Steve Levy on ESPN, McDavid played almost half of the third period and finished his first Stanley Cup Final skating 25:42, the third most minutes behind Evan Bouchard (27:43) and Mattias Ekholm (26:07). During the game broadcast, rinkside analyst Ray Ferrero mentioned in the final five minutes that the Oilers looked gassed and the energy just wasn’t there.

There is no denying what Edmonton achieved during the regular season and the Stanley Cup playoffs, but relying on only a handful of players to bail them out of situations ended up costing them in the end. The role players didn’t find the scoresheet, 100-point player Leon Draisaitl didn’t do much in seven games, and McDavid was relatively quiet outside of his performances in Games 4 and 5.

Stuart Skinner did everything he could to keep the Oilers as competitive as possible, but in the most crucial game of his career, he gave up a goal that was tipped and got beat by a shot just under his arm for the Cup-clinching tally by Sam Reinhart. Outside of three elimination game wins, Stuart was not the better goalie in the series, even though Bobrovsky had terrible nights.

On the national stage, the Oilers were exposed. They rely too heavily on power play opportunities and goals. When their star players, including Zach Hyman and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, get shut down, it’s up to McDavid and Draisaitl to get them wins by playing over 25 minutes a night.

In the Stanley Cup Final, the Panthers just showed the entire NHL that the game’s best players can be neutralized, and when effective, the Oilers are not as formidable as their win streaks indicate.

Florida’s goal scorers show up at the right time in Game 7

NHL: Stanley Cup Final-Edmonton Oilers at Florida Panthers
Credit: Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports

During the regular season, Reinhart scored 57 goals, second-most in the NHL. He was quiet most of the Stanley Cup Final and had only one lamplighter in the eight games prior to Game 7. On the eve of free agency, one of the game’s prolific goal scorers of 2024 scored the most memorable goal in Panthers history.

Meanwhile, Carter Verhaeghe, who had 10 playoff goals heading into Monday night, tipped home an Evan Rodrigues shot in the first period to give Florida the all-important first goal. With his tally, he tied a franchise record with 11 postseason goals in a single season, a mark he shares with teammate Matthew Tkachuk.

Although most discussions of Florida’s run to the title focused on Bobrovsky’s saves and Aleksander Barkov’s defensive game, the Panthers’ other stars shined in Game 7, helping the franchise capture its first Stanley Cup.

It takes an entire team to win the hardest trophy in professional sports, and the Panthers showed that it takes heart and determination to win, dishing out 30 hits and blocking 17 shots in Game 7. They played as a unit, put their bodies on the line, and every time Edmonton had the puck, they would descend on that player in a white jersey and disrupt their opportunity.

The Panthers’ losses in Games 4, 5, and 6 were missing those elements. But with the Cup in the building for the final time and surrounded by friends, families, and fans who had supported the franchise for 30 years, Florida executed a near-perfect game and celebrated with hockey’s Holy Grail at the final buzzer.

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