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Blittner’s Blue Line: Stanley Cup Final Preview

FOUR MORE! That’s right, just four more wins until one of the two remaining teams gets to lift Lord Stanley’s Cup. Who are the teams? How do they stack up against each other? Why should you care about this matchup even though your favorite team is already booking tee times at the local golf course? How about we take a look…

On Saturday, June 8, 2024, at 8 pm (ET), the Edmonton Oilers and Florida Panthers will square off on ABC in Game 1 of The Stanley Cup Final in Sunrise, Florida. 

Here’s the full schedule.Image

This first-time-ever Cup matchup has plenty of intrigue surrounding it and it should be a terrific series. First off, from a geographical perspective, no other Cup Final in history has seen more distance between the two opponents than this one. That’s why there’s an extra day of rest in between Games Two and Three, Four and Five, Five and Six, and Six and Seven. Typically there would only be one day of rest between games, but due to the increased travel, The League decided to add an extra day off each time the series switches venues. 

Next, whoever wins will end a rather lengthy drought. The Oilers haven’t won The Cup since 1990. Meanwhile, the Panthers…well, the Puddy Cats have NEVER won The Cup and they’ve been in The League for 30 years. Either way, it’s a long time coming for both Cup Finalists.


Now, how do they stack up against each other?

OFFENSE: When it comes to putting the puck in the back of the net, both teams are well-oiled machines. They just go about it in different ways. The Oilers have otherworldly skills, led by Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Evan Bouchard, and Zach Hyman. On the other side, the Panthers like to grind up their opponents before scoring their goals. Matthew Tkachuk, Sam Reinhart, Aleksander Barkov, Carter Verhaeghe, and Sam Bennett have no qualms about getting down and dirty in order to score. 

DEFENSE: Florida’s physicality on the blue line makes up for their lack of Norris-caliber defenders. Meanwhile, Edmonton’s D-corps can be rather shaky, however, Evan Bouchard has been making opposing teams pay in more ways than one throughout the playoffs. 

GOALTENDING: Have you ever seen a Cup Final with as unpredictable goaltending as this? Sergei Bobrovsky is a two-time Vezina winner and a finalist for the award this year, but he’s spent the last few seasons constantly flirting with losing his job. Stuart Skinner doesn’t have the hardware Bobrovsky does and he’s as inconsistent as they come. So who do you trust to make the key saves when they matter most? 

SPECIAL TEAMS: The Oilers have had a historic power play for a couple of years now while the Panthers’ man advantage is merely excellent. Florida’s penalty-kill is top-notch but the Oilers, whose penalty-kill has been troublesome at times, are riding a historic wave of success in this postseason. 

COACHING: Paul Maurice has been around for a very long time and has done a lot of things. But he’s never won The Cup. Kris Knoblauch is a first-time NHL Head Coach and by all means has excelled since taking over the Oilers midseason, which is no surprise given his track record in the minor leagues. But does he have what it takes to guide his team to the ultimate triumph? 

SUMMARY: This series is going to be a major contrast of styles. But if we look at each team’s previous playoff opponents we can gather some valuable insight into who might lift Lord Stanley’s Fabled Chalice. Florida took down the highly skilled Lightning, the bruising Bruins, and the skilled Rangers. Edmonton dispatched the stuck-in-quicksand Kings, struggled to take down the physical Canucks, and then knocked off the deep-as-the-ocean Stars. In other words, the Panthers’ physicality could be the Oilers’ undoing.

PREDICTION: Florida Panthers in Six.

***Editor’s Note: Blittner’s Blue Line correctly predicted seven-of-eight first-round winners, four-of-four second-round winners, and one-of-two third-round winners for a total of 12-out-of-14. 

In other news, Rangers’ longtime Goalie Coach Benoit Allaire has chosen to step back from the everyday grind of coaching to be the organization’s Director of Goaltending. Those are large shoes to fill and New York’s goaltending will have to adjust rather quickly once a new coach is selected. 

Also, with the NHL’s annual Entry Draft coming up at the end of the month, make sure to check out for all the latest rankings, opinions, scouting reports, interviews, and more. 

McDavid photo by Reiss

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