NHL: Panthers zero in on Oilers’ dynamic duo in Cup prep

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Panthers coach Paul Maurice downplayed the record distance separating Florida and the Edmonton Oilers in the 2024 Stanley Cup Final.

He’s too focused on figuring out a plan to slow down Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, who piloted the Oilers back to the Cup final for the first time since 2006.

“It’s both sides of the puck, equally weighted,” Maurice said of prepping for Game 1 with Edmonton on Saturday. “Their defensive analytics are almost as good as ours. … You have to defend against the whole group, active back end and superstars up front.”

Edmonton last won the Stanley Cup in 1990. Florida, the Cup runner-up to Vegas last year, can become the first team that lost the Stanley Cup Final to win the next year since the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2009.

They’ll lean on two-time Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky in net and a trapping defense to contain two top scorers and a sizzling Edmonton power play.

“With those guys especially, two of the best players in the world, they’ve shown it their whole career,” Panthers defenseman Brandon Montour said. “Those are two players you can’t necessarily shut down, but you can limit. … We’ve got to make it tough on them. It’s going to be a long series.”

There are plenty of experience advantages for Florida. Bobrovsky is starting his 82nd playoff game on Saturday.

McDavid leads the NHL with 31 playoff points and Draisaitl is second with 28.

At age 27, McDavid is a three-time league MVP and since entering the NHL, he owns 982 points, 335 goals and five Art Ross Trophies as the league’s top point-scorer in nine seasons.

But he’s playing for the Stanley Cup for the first time. That’s also true of first-year coach Kris Knoblauch.

“This was always part of the plan, to be in this moment. To put ourselves in this position was always a possibility and it feels good to have done that,” McDavid said.

–Field Level Media

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