NHL

NHL Stanley Cup Final Preview and Predictions — Oilers vs. Panthers

Do last year's Eastern Conference champion Panthers break through, or is it Connor McDavid's time to etch his name on the cup?

June 5, 2024

The puck will drop on the NHL’s Stanley Cup Final between the Panthers and Oilers on Saturday, June 8. This series preview features odds from Tipico Sportsbook for the outcome of the series and Conn Smythe Trophy winner — as well as a Stanley Cup Final series prediction.

Florida Panthers (-130 odds to win Stanley Cup) vs. Edmonton Oilers (+105)

Panther Power

The Panthers lost in the Stanley Cup Final last year, falling in five games to Vegas. After that series, it was revealed that several key players on the team were nursing serious injuries, including forward Matthew Tkachuk and defensemen Brandon Montour and Aaron Ekblad.

Not only is Florida healthier this year, but the Panthers have also enjoyed a breakout season from defenseman Gustav Forsling, who is second in the NHL with a plus-11 rating in the postseason after posting a league-best plus-56 mark in the regular season. The Panthers also have home-ice advantage in the Stanley Cup Final after finishing the regular season with 110 points compared to Edmonton’s 104.

The Panthers have dominated possession in each of their first three series, using a balanced offense to get by three tough goaltending matchups. They defeated Andrei Vasilevskiy and the Lightning in five games, cooled off the previously red-hot Jeremy Swayman in a six-game win over the Bruins, and managed to turn the tide after trailing 2-1 in the series to knock off Igor Shesterkin and the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Rangers in six games.

Tkachuk leads the Panthers with 19 points in 17 games this postseason, while Carter Verhaeghe and 2024 Selke Trophy (NHL’s best regular-season defensive forward) winner Aleksander Barkov are tied for second on the team with 17 points. Verhaeghe leads the team with nine postseason goals — one more than Sam Reinhart, who finished second in the NHL with 57 goals in the regular season.

The Panthers enjoyed a favorable whistle in their Eastern Conference Final win over the Rangers, but their penalty kill came up big when called upon, holding a New York power play that ranked third at 26.4 percent in the regular season to a 1-15 showing in Florida’s six-game series win.

Oilers superstars Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl are unlikely to underperform like New York’s Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad did, however, considering Edmonton’s operating with a massive 37.3 power play percentage in the playoffs — after finishing the regular season at 26.3 percent — so Florida will need to put a continued emphasis on staying out of the box in this series.

Luckily for a Panthers team that was the most penalized in the NHL in the regular season, it’s a proven phenomenon that officials swallow their whistles more with each subsequent round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Star-Driven Oilers

Star power has carried the Oilers to this point. McDavid leads all skaters this postseason with 31 points in 18 games, three ahead of second-place Draisaitl. Zach Hyman has continued his scoring spree with a playoff-high 14 goals after a 54-goal regular season, and Evan Bouchard has emerged as a star on the blue line with 27 points and a playoff-best plus-14 rating.

The Oilers defeated the Kings in five games, beat the Canucks in seven and took out the Stars in six. Their path to the Stanley Cup Final arguably featured a weaker opponent in every round when compared to Florida.

Looking to some individual awards, McDavid to win the Conn Smythe Trophy is +200 odds on Tipico Sportsbook at the moment. This is a better bet than betting on the Oilers to win the series. McDavid has a chance to win even in a losing effort as he’s certainly been the postseason’s most valuable player up to this point.

If Edmonton wins the Cup, it’s a near lock that McDavid would take home the award based on reputation alone – not to say he hasn’t been deserving. Among Oilers, Draisaitl (+950) is a distant second to McDavid in Conn Smythe odds.

Florida has three popular Conn Smythe candidates in Barkov (+400), goalie Sergei Bobrovsky (+450) and Tkachuk (+550), but Verhaeghe (+2000) is an enticing bet considering he leads the team in goals and is just two points off the team lead. Bobrovsky has a 12-5 record and 2.20 GAA this postseason despite a pedestrian .908 save percentage, which is a testament to just how dominant the Panthers have looked in front of him.

In the end, Florida’s superior team game should be the difference in this series. The Oilers’ stars will need more help than they’ve gotten throughout the playoffs so far — and if Oilers netminder Stuart Skinner can’t improve upon the subpar .897 save percentage he has this postseason, this series might not last long.

Prediction: Panthers 4-1 in 5 games (+550)

Sasha Yodashkin
Sasha Yodashkin has been contributing NFL, NHL, NBA, MLB and Tennis content to RotoWire since 2015, with an emphasis on DFS. He is a huge New York sports fan who has been playing fantasy sports since middle school.
MORE FROM Sasha