NHL Finals: Everything you need to know about the Panthers and Oilers ##

The NHL Finals are set, with the Florida Panthers and Edmonton Oilers advancing past their respective conferences to square off. This will be the first Finals matchup between these two teams, with the Panthers looking to win their first championship and the Oilers hoping to claim their first since 1990. Both teams have shown they have the potential to be well-rounded contenders, combining stellar defense with enough offensive firepower to punish any mistakes. Here's more information on each franchise, as well as key players and trends to watch.

Florida Panthers

The Panthers have advanced to the Finals for the second straight year, and they'll look to finish the job this time around. Their run has been defined by a stingy defense, with the team allowing more than two goals in a game only five times throughout the postseason. The offense has been solid as well, with five different players recording at least 10 points. The defense will need to be strong again versus the Oilers, as they try to limit the opportunities for stars like Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.

Key players

Goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky has been one of the Panthers' most important players this postseason, as he's posted a 12-5 record with a .908 save percentage and 2.20 goals-against average. He'll need to be sharp again versus the Oilers' high-powered attack. On defense, watch out for Aaron Ekblad, who missed last year's Finals due to a foot injury. He'll be counted on to help slow down Edmonton's top scorers. Upfront, Carter Verhaeghe has been hot and cold throughout the playoffs. He'll be looking to find his scoring touch again after being largely held in check against the Rangers.

Edmonton Oilers

After falling to the Panthers in last year's Finals, the Oilers are back and looking for revenge. They've been led by their dynamic duo of McDavid and Draisaitl, who have been dominating offensively all postseason. But the team has also received key contributions from depth players like Mattias Janmark, Ryan McLeod, and Philip Broberg, proving they are more than just their two stars. In goal, Stuart Skinner has found his stride after a rocky start, giving the Oilers a chance to win every time he's between the pipes.

Key players

McDavid and Draisaitl are the unquestioned stars of the show, but watch out for Zach Hyman, who gives the Oilers a physical presence up front and helps create space for their stars to operate. On defense, Evan Bouchard and Mattias Ekholm have been solid on the top pairing, while Darnell Nurse has elevated his play down the stretch. The Oilers could also use a strong performance from Evander Kane, who has been held without a goal since Game 5 of the second round. Hiring Kris Knoblauch midseason to replace Jay Woodcroft is a trend among recent champions. After all, Knoblauch is in his first season as an NHL coach.

While coaching experience isn't everything, it can often be a deciding factor in such a tight series. After all, the margins for error are so slim at this point in the season, every tactical decision matters. That said, there's a growing trend of teams hiring first-time NHL coaches in their first seasons together. After all, the Panthers are led by Paul Maurice, who has now reached his third Cup Final in two decades as a coach, while the Oilers are led by Kris Knoblauch, who was hired midseason and has no prior experience as an NHL head coach. Meanwhile, recent champions like the 2019 St. Louis Blues, 2020 Dallas Stars, 2021 Montreal Canadiens, and 2022 Vegas Golden Knights all raised the trophy in their first seasons with their respective coaches. It's a trend to keep an eye on heading into the Finals.

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