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Tank's Stanley Cup Finals Preview

Giphy Images.

Stanley Cup Final

  • Florida Panthers vs. Edmonton Oilers
  • Oilers in Six

It is hard to believe, but it has been 31 years since a Canadian-based team won the Stanley Cup. There have been more recent championships in the World Series and NBA Finals, with the Blue Jays winning four months after the Canadiens danced with the Stanley Cup in 1993 and the Raptors winning in the NBA in 2019. Those Raptors did not exist the last time a Canadian team won the Stanley, and neither did the Florida Panthers, who were born of expansion while Montreal was celebrating. Is this the year that trend comes to an end?

Both the Edmonton Oilers and Florida Panthers arrived at this stage as the clear two best teams in the league.  Using strong defense and goaltending, the Panthers needed five games to bounce their arch-rivals from Tampa before beating up the Bruins in a physical six-game series. In the Eastern Conference Finals, the Panthers overcame an early 2-1 deficit to win a close series against the Rangers. The Oilers meanwhile used their dynamic offensive attack, led by Connor McDavid, who showed why he is the best player in the NHL in Edmonton's six-game triumph over the Stars in the Western Finals. Before that, the Oilers beat the Kings in five and came from behind to beat the Canucks in seven. 

In recent years, the question in Edmonton was whether they could get enough goaltending to win. Connor McDavid and Leon Draistal have been the league's top-scoring duo for several years, but the Oilers' lack of a reliable goaltender in the postseason has been their undoing. This year, Stuart Skinner has been solid, while Evan Bouchard has become a deadly blueline playmaker with 21 assists in the postseason. In addition, Zach Hyman has been the perfect man in the front of the net, with a league-best 14 goals. With all this dynamic firepower, the Oilers are going to be hard to stop. 

For the Panthers to win, they must muck it up and slow down the Oilers' forceful attack. They also need Sergei Bobrovsky to have a series for the ages, which he is capable of having, as he did in last year's Eastern Conference Finals. In beating the Rangers, the Panthers were able to limit New York's shots on goals. They need to do the same to have a chance against the Oilers. They also will need someone who can pester and annoy the Oilers' stars, and that lies heavily on Matthew Tkachuk, who has been the Panthers' leading scorer in the postseason. The Panthers must take away the Oilers' skill and spacing on the ice. They will need the games to be low-scoring and the physical play to be at maximum. 

One thing that will be certain in the series is that the Oilers will have a tremendous home-ice edge. The Panthers will have Game 7 at home and will play the first two games at home, but games in Edmonton will be ravenous as fans starve for a Stanley Cup, making it a madhouse. The Panthers have had their ups and downs in their 30 seasons, only recently becoming Stanley Cup contenders. Much of the South Florida fan base is made up of snowbirds, many of whom are from Canada and will be cheering on the Oilers. It feels as if all of Canada has united behind the Oilers to end the three-decade drought. If the Panthers win, fans in South Florida will cheer for a few days and go on with their summer. If the Oilers win, Edmonton will not stop partying until the new season begins; even then, fans will rejoice at the new shiny banner. Don't underestimate what that atmosphere will bring to the series and the dynamic offense of the Oilers. Conner McDavid can taste, and so can all of Canada, as the Oilers win in six. 

Icon Sportswire. Getty Images.
  • Conn Smythe Winner
  • Connor McDavid, Oilers



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