2024 Stanley Cup Final: Staff predictions for Panthers-Oilers series

NHL: Edmonton Oilers at Florida Panthers
Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The Florida Panthers and Edmonton Oilers meet in the 2024 Stanley Cup Final, beginning with Game 1 on Saturday in Sunrise, Florida. It’s an intriguing matchup featuring the relentless Panthers and the explosive Oilers.

It’s the second consecutive season in the Stanley Cup Final for the Panthers, who lost in in five games to the Vegas Golden Knights in 2023. They finished first in the Atlantic Division this season with 110 points, six more than the Oilers (104), who were second in the Pacific Division.

The Panthers are 12-5 this postseason and have won three straight after taking out the New York Rangers in six games in the Eastern Conference Final. They won the season series against the Oilers, 2-0-0.

Edmonton, a five-time Stanley Cup champion, hasn’t been to the Cup Final since 2006 when it lost in seven games to the Carolina Hurricanes. The Oilers are 12-6 this postseason and won the Western Conference Final in six games against the Dallas Stars, winning the final three games.

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Staff predictions for 2024 Stanley Cup Final

NHL: Florida Panthers at Edmonton Oilers
Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

Jim Cerny, Managing Editor NHL

Any time you have the best player in the world playing for a championship, it’s a compelling story. And Connor McDavid’s quest to win the Stanley Cup in his first Final with the Oilers is a massive story here. Especially with him playing at an insane pace with 31 points in 18 games, including 26 assists, which are five off Wayne Gretzky’s single postseason record of 31 set n 1988. And it’s not just McDavid. Edmonton’s best players — McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Evan Bouchard and Zach Hyman — have been their best players. Plus the Oilers diligent play defensively has helped land them in this spot, four wins from their first Stanley Cup championship since 1990. But the Panthers have shown a crazy ability to neutralize opponents’ best players in each of the first three rounds — they just held Artemi Panarin, Chris Kreider, Mika Zibanejad and Adam Fox to two goals combined in the conference final. Simply, the Panthers are relentless, physical, agitating, highly skilled and disciplined. And have played that way all season. It starts with captain Aleksander Barkov, likely the best two-way forward in the League. And it carries throughout the lineup, from Matthew Tkachuk to Sam Bennett to Anton Lundell. Plus their defense corps is deep and healthy this time around. They’re on a mission after losing in the 2023 Stanley Cup Final and will finally win the first championship in franchise history. Panthers in 6

Ryan Gagne, Staff Writer

This time, the Panthers are going to win the Stanley Cup. After falling short against the Golden Knights last season, the Panthers are back in the Cup Final and poised to win their first championship. Of course, this series will be challenging as McDavid, Draisaitl, Bouchard, Stuart Skinner, and the rest of the Oilers are no pushovers. However, the Panthers are better from top to bottom. Despite Edmontonians’ claims that the Oilers are the best and most skilled team in the NHL, Florida has shut down opponents’ top players throughout the postseason, allowing 24.5 shots against a game, and will do it again here. Meanwhile, the Panthers average 33.2 shots a contest, meaning Skinner has to be in top form, or this will be a quick series in the Florida’s favor. This Stanley Cup Final features the best penalty-killing units in the playoffs, the Oilers (93.3 percent) and the Panthers (88.2 percent), meaning special teams could be the determining factor in the series. Although all the Conn Smythe favorites are here, the winner of the Cup will be the team with better goaltending, which is Florida with Sergei Bobrovsky. Panthers in 6

Lou Orlando, Staff Writer

Edmonton is playing high-level hockey and will make this a competitive series, but I just can’t bet against Florida. The Panthers are simply built for the postseason, able to roll four lines and play their style regardless of who’s on the ice. The Oilers are not to be slept on as they’ve played complete hockey in their own right and have really stepped it up defensively in the postseason, but I don’t think they’ve met a team in its run that can rival Florida’s physicality. The Oilers’ stars will have a tougher time finding space in this round — shutting down McDavid, Drasaitl, and Co. won’t be easy, but if there’s anyone that can do it, it’s a Panthers team led by Aleksander Barkov. Skinner’s been brilliant, but Florida’s already disposed of three excellent goaltenders to get here. And on top of it all, how can you root against Paul Maurice? He’s just so damn likable. Panthers in 6

Nick Palmer, Staff Writer

The Panthers have played the most consistent hockey of any Stanley Cup Final team I’ve seen in a while. Only twice have they lost by more than one goal this entire postseason. Fans are eager to see how the Panthers will deal with McDavid, but I would argue that Barkov and second-line center Bennett are more than equipped to shut him down. It feels strange to say, but this series (as have most this year) will come down to who can play a superior blanket defense. Despite having offensively-minded stars, Edmonton has been surprisingly effective at this with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins playing his best hockey to date, but this style has been Florida’s bread and butter since Game 1 of the first round against the Tampa Bay Lightning. If the Panthers can limit the Oilers on the power play, I see no issues for Florida this second time around in the Stanley Cup Final. Panthers in 5.

Dane Walsh, Staff Writer

I think this is going to be an interesting Final. The elite speed and skill of the Oilers matches up against the grit and toughness of the Panthers. Florida has done a great job shutting down elite talent, but McDavid, Draisaitl, Hyman, Bouchard, just might be too much to handle. If Bobrovsky can stay hot then Florida certainly has a chance. But I think it’s finally time for McDavid to cement his legacy, and bring a Stanley Cup back to Edmonton. I didn’t think they had it in them until watching what they did to the Dallas Stars in the Western Conference Final. Skinner is finding his game, and I think their offense will overpower the style of hockey the Panthers play. Oilers in 6

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