NHL News

Jun 07 2024

The Road to the 2024 Stanley Cup Finals

Source: Unsplash

The Stanley Cup Finals are now finally here, and the two titans battling it out for the greatest prize in ice hockey have been determined. The Florida Panthers have made it to the very end once again for the second year in a row, and they will be hoping to put their heartbreaking defeat to the Vegas Golden Knights last year firmly in the rearview mirror. Meanwhile, out West, the Edmonton Oilers are flying the flag for Canada, and they are aiming to become the country's first NHL champions in over three decades. 

Both teams have had to endure arduous matches to get this far, none more so than the conference finals. For the Floridians, they had to knock off the President's Trophy winners to punch their ticket to the showpiece series. Connor McDavid and co had a similarly arduous task, having to overturn a 2-1 series deficit to remain in with a shot at glory. Now, the two face off with the famous giant trophy on the lines. 

When it comes to the betting odds, neither side can be separated. The latest Stanley Cup odds have both teams priced at -125, which means the clash could go either way and the trophy could easily end up at either Amerant Bank Arena or Rogers Place. But how did both sides get to this point? And what can we expect to see in the finals? 

Florida Panthers

The Florida Panthers entered the 2023/24 season with high expectations following a strong showing the year prior. Heading into the 2023 playoffs, they entered the postseason as a wildcard, but they proceeded to defy the low expectations. They first shocked the record-breaking President's Trophy-winning Boston Bruins, stunning them in a seven-game thriller in the opening round. They then went on to dispatch the Toronto Maple Leafs and Carolina Hurricanes with relative ease, before the Golden Knights offered too much for them to handle. 

This term, they were wildcards no more. They finished the regular season as the winners of the Atlantic Division and just three victories behind the New York Rangers, who had the best record in the entire league. This came despite a series of mid-season injuries to key players like Aleksander Barkov and Aaron Ekblad, which led to several inconsistent performances. 

Head Coach Paul Maurice's tactical acumen played a vital role in navigating his side through the rocky waters, but he ultimately managed to do exactly that. However, once the postseason rolled around, it was anything but a walk in the park. First came the Tampa Bay Lightning, who were crowned champions in back-to-back years in 2020 and 2021. However, they were soundly dispatched 4-1. 

In the Conference semifinals, the Panthers came up against a Bruins side on the hunt for redemption for the previous year. But despite their best efforts, they were unable to knock off the Floridians, who ran out victorious in six. Next came their greatest test, the President's trophy-winning Rangers. 

The Big Apple side took an early 2-1 lead in the series and they harbored their hopes of lifting the trophy. But unfortunately for them, the Panthers came roaring back. They won three games on the bounce, two on home turf, and one inside Madison Square Garden, to punch their ticket to the finals. Now, they have their eyes on the championship and potentially the first Stanley Cup triumph in franchise history. 

Edmonton Oilers

The Edmonton Oilers headed into the current campaign with one clear objective: to capture the Stanley Cup. With Connor McDavid leading the charge in recent years, the Alberta outfit has had the best player in the world on their roster for some time. However, he hasn't had the supporting cast required to secure a championship. This term, however, Leon Draisaitl has joined him and formed the most explosive double act in the league. 

Throughout the season, their captain and leader McDavid has put up staggering numbers once more and is continuing his otherworldly form. Admittedly, it hasn't led him to a fourth straight Art Ross Trophy, but it has led him to the Stanley Cup finals for the first time in his career. Coupled with Draisaitl's lethal scoring punch and a supplementary support act led by a rejuvenated Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and young defenseman Evan Bouchard, it's clear to see why the Oilers finally mean business. 

The playoffs, however, demanded more than just stellar regular-season performance. In the first round, the Oilers faced a formidable Los Angeles Kings side that finished just five points behind them in the Pacific Division. Some blistering displays from veteran Zach Hyman were enough to help his side to a 4-1 victory and set up a Canadian conference semifinal against the Vancouver Canucks. 

This was perhaps McDavd and Co's toughest test and one that very nearly didn't go their way. They trailed in the series 2-1 and 3-2 at points, but back-to-back victories home and away in the final two games ensured they progressed in seven. Then again in the conference finals, they trailed, this time to the Dallas Stars. But once more, they came charging back, winning three straight to head to the Stanley Cup finals for the first time since the days of Wayne Gretzky. 

Now, both teams head into the final stanza with very real championship aspirations. However, there can only be one, and it's only a matter of time before we find out who that is. 

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