Florida Panthers vs. Edmonton Oilers Stanley Cup

Get ready for a very interesting series for the Stanley Cup between the Florida Panthers and Edmonton Oilers. At this point, there is a ton of pressure on both teams to win, but Edmonton has a country-sized monkey on their backs, as Canada has not had a Cup winner since the 1993 Montreal Canadiens.

The Panthers are looking to avoid a repeat of last year’s Finals loss and also secure their first championship in franchise history. So, yeah, the stakes are high for both teams.


But, it is the Panthers that hold the upper hand to me in this series and the team I’ve picked to win the Stanley Cup. Here are the reasons why. (Stats from Natural Stat Trick)

Panthers have the goaltending advantage

Let’s start in net because the best way to neutralize the best player in the world is to have the better goaltender. Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Zach Hyman, and the rest of the Edmonton roster led the league in goals at 5-v-5 during the regular season, but Sergei Bobrovsky finished eighth in goals saved above average (GSAA). If something were to happen to Bob, or he were to uncharacteristically struggle, backup Anthony Stolarz was fourth in that department.

Stuart Skinner’s heroics late in the series against the Stars propelled the Oilers to represent the Western Conference here in the Finals, but he ranks dead last in GSAA in the postseason. Bobrovsky is a respectable seventh out of 26 netminders. 

Florida’s sixth-ranked penalty kill in the regular season and second in the postseason has a lot to do with Bobrovsky and will be a huge key to the series, given that the Oilers lead all playoff teams with 19 power play goals and a 37.3% PP%.

Panthers are the better 5-v-5 team

Florida allowed the fewest goals per game during the regular season and the fewest goals at 5-v-5 with just 119. Special teams are always important and the Panthers are no slouches in that department, but the bulk of any hockey game is played with five skaters per side. 

Florida has outscored opponents 31-24 at 5-v-5 here in the playoffs and actually has almost the same expected goals for (xGF) as Edmonton (36.13 to 36.26), even though the Oilers have outscored opponents 39-38. Edmonton has played 18 playoff games to Florida’s 17.

And yet, the Panthers have generated more scoring chances 5-v-5 with 43 more than the Oilers and also have allowed 82 fewer scoring chances. Furthermore, the Panthers have generated more high-danger scoring chances and also allowed fewer.

Florida just hasn’t finished those chances at the same rate that the Oilers have, but the Panthers have faced Andrei Vasilevskiy, Linus Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman, and Igor Shesterkin. The Oilers did face a very tough customer in Jake Oettinger last round, but got to take advantage of Cam Talbot and avoided Thatcher Demko in the Canucks series.

Home ice advantage

The Panthers are the home team for this series and that presents a few advantages. The Oilers were 21-20 in 41 away games during the regular season and, while they’ve played better on the road in the postseason, it has been written about and studied that home teams definitely get more favorable whistles. Edmonton is most dangerous on the power play and Florida may benefit from limited chances.

The other thing is that the home team gets the last line change in the NHL, so the Panthers will be able to get the matchup that they want against McDavid for the better part of the first two games and would have that luxury if a Game 7 was needed. It may not fully matter against a player of his caliber, but it could still provide a boost.

The other two reasons are much stronger for me, but the Panthers did win 26 regular season games at home and on the road and we know the old adage about how “defense travels” and the Panthers are very clearly the better defensive team.

So, I’ll take the Panthers -130.

For a different spin on the series, check out what Jonny Lazarus had to say in his Panthers vs. Oilers preview.