3 mistakes Oilers must avoid to beat Panthers in Stanley Cup Final

Dallas Stars v Edmonton Oilers - Game Six
Can Stuart Skinner lead the Edmonton Oilers to the Stanley Cup?

The Edmonton Oilers are set to challenge the Florida Panthers for the Stanley Cup, with Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final slated for Saturday at 8:00 p.m. ET.

It hasn't been a smooth ride for the Oilers, who disposed of the Los Angeles Kings in five games before being taken to Game 7 against the Pacific Division winner Vancouver Canucks.

And this week, Edmonton eliminated the West's top team, the Dallas Stars, in the Western Conference Final in six games to advance to their first Stanley Cup Final since 2006.

Although all the top playoff scorers wear an oil drop on their jersey, and players like Connor McDavid and Zach Hyman are chasing NHL playoff history, they haven't played an opponent like the Panthers, making this series one for the ages.

Three mistakes Oilers must avoid to beat Panthers in Stanley Cup Finals

#1. Protect Stuart Skinner and the house at all costs

After years of doubt, Stuart Skinner finally proved he could be an elite goaltender and win the Stanley Cup -- or at least bring a team to the Final.

He's 16-10 in his career with a .891 SV% in the playoffs. Considering the Panthers average 33 shots a game, the second most of all postseason teams in 2024, Skinner needs to bring his A-game every night or watch his GAA explode.

Stuart Skinner, Edmonton Oilers
Stuart Skinner, Edmonton Oilers

Surprisingly, he's 6-1 in playoff games when he faces more than 30 shots, which will be the case in this upcoming series. Even though the Oilers surrender an average of 25 shots a game, they haven't faced a team so talented and deep as Florida, who will find ways to get pucks on the net.

#2. Avoid letting Matthew Tkachuk dominate the series

Matthew Tkachuk was the leading candidate for the Conn Smythe Trophy in 2023 until a cracked sternum took him out of last year's Stanley Cup Final, one of the significant reasons the Panthers lost in five games.

Since relocating to Florida in 2023 after six years with the Calgary Flames, he's compiled 197 points in 159 games and 43 more in 37 playoff games. This year, he's collected 19 in 17 games but has quietly been involved in the Panthers' run to the Final.

During his previous playoff encounter with the Oilers in 2022, Tkachuk had four points in five games, six penalty minutes, and 19 shots on goal. In his career against Edmonton, he's netted 26 points (10 goals and 16 assists) in 32 games with 69 penalty minutes, the most against any opponent.

As a former player who played three hours down the road from Rogers Place in Alberta, Tkachuk knows how to be a thorn in the side of any Oilers player. If he plays his game, it will be a long and challenging series for their superstars.

#3. Prevent Florida from controlling play after faceoff wins

Heading into the Stanley Cup Final, the Panthers are winning 50.6% of faceoffs, three percentage points better than the Oilers at 47.3. Overall, Florida ranks seventh and Edmonton comes in at 13th.

Winning more draws allows hockey teams to control play, whether it's in the offensive or defensive zone. On the man advantage, winning that first draw is crucial for setting up the attack and forcing the opponent to work extra hard to break it up and get line changes in.

Overall, the Oilers only have Adam Henrique (55%), Sam Carrick (51.6%), and Ryan McLeod (50.4), who have won more than half of their draws. Meanwhile, the Panthers have Anton Lundell (53.7%), Aleksander Barkov (53.4%), Eetu Luostarinen (52.9%), Evan Rodrigues (52.3%), Kevin Stenlund (51%), Sam Bennett (50%) more than capable of winning faceoffs.

Depending on the time and the situation, the Panthers can put almost any center on the ice and have a better chance of gaining puck possession on a faceoff win. The Oilers can't afford to chase the game, especially in must-situations, so getting better in the circle is a must for Edmonton to win the Stanley Cup.

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Edited by Brad Taningco
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