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2024 Stanley Cup Final

Barkov, McDavid in Best-on-Best Battle for the Stanley Cup

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SUNRISE — The Stanley Cup Final will feature a battle of two of the best players in the world at their specific skillset.

In the red corner, Florida Panthers captain Sasha Barkov holds the title as the NHL’s best defensive forward after the retirement of Patrice Bergeron.

He just won his second Selke Trophy — and is one of 10 players in NHL history to do so — and is showing no signs of stopping his dominance on both ends.

In the blue corner, Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid is far and away the most offensively-skilled player in the league.

He is a six-time MVP and a five-time  scoring champion with  seven 100-point seasons under his belt.

It is the ultimate test of offense vs. defense.

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“He is a really, really good player,” Barkov said. “He’s an exceptional talent, for sure. Everybody knows how good he is, I don’t need to start talking about his game here. But, it’s going to take the whole team. Every guy on the ice needs to be aware of how to play against him.”

Barkov will be drawing those 1-on-1 match-ups with McDavid for a large majority of this series, and both parties know what is on the other end.

For Barkov, it means defending one of the fastest players to ever lace up a pair of hockey skates who can blow past you with his speed, get out of tight areas with his hands and make plays with both his exceptional passing ability and his slick wrist shot.

For McDavid, it means needing to find a way past one of the tightest defenders in the league.

Barkov has gotten his speed a notch closer to McDavid’s after extensive work in the offseason and is exceptional when it comes to defensive positioning, making plays with his stick and has added an extra element of physicality to his game.

“He’s a great player,” McDavid said. “He is a full 200-foot player, he’s great in the offensive zone and in the defensive zone he is as good as it gets. It’s going to be a great challenge and I’m excited.”

As the humble Florida captain said himself, he is not alone in this endeavor.

The Panthers play one of the best defensive systems in the league that worked well in containing McDavid and the Oilers to the tune of a 10-4 goal differential in their two regular season matchups this year.

A talented supporting cast featuring the likes of Gus ForslingSam ReinhartAaron Ekblad among others helps stabilize the defensive-first scheme that Paul Maurice has built.

But it all starts with the leadership and play style of Barkov.

The rest of it was morphed around him.

“He leads by example, and it’s not an intent, it’s just how he is as a person,” general manager Bill Zito said. “His defensive play and the way he plays is really a function of hm buying into how to win hockey games or doing what needs to be done to win.

“It may manifest itself with other players, maybe not only on the defensive side of the puck, but also to doing the right things consistently and all the time and that description suits him well.”

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2024 STANLEY CUP FINAL
EDMONTON OILERS VS. FLORIDA PANTHERS 
GAME 1
  • When: Saturday, 8 p.m.
  • Where: Amerant Bank Arena, Sunrise
  • National TV: ABC
  • Streaming: ESPN+/Hulu
  • Radio: WQAM 560-AM; WPOW 96.5-FM2; WBZT 1230-AM (West Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); WCZR 101.7-FM (Treasure Coast); SiriusXM
  • Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932, NHL app
  • Local Betting Odds — Panthers Favored: Money Line (-145); Puck line (-1.5, +165); Over/Under 5.5 (-120/-110). Series Panthers -150
  • Series Schedule, All Games 8 p.m. on ABC — Game 1:Edmonton at Florida, Saturday; Game 2: Edmonton at Florida, Monday; Game 3: Florida at Edmonton, Thursday; Game 4: Florida at Edmonton, Saturday June 15; Game 5*: Edmonton at Florida, Tuesday June 18; Game 6*: Florida at Edmonton, Friday June 21; Game 7*: Edmonton at Florida, Monday June 24. (*) – If Necessary
  • How They Got Here — Florida: d. Tampa Bay 4-1, Boston 4-2, New York Rangers 4-2; Edmonton: d. Los Angeles 4-1, Vancouver 4-3, Dallas 4-2.
  • This Season (Florida Won 2-0) — At Florida: Panthers 5, Oilers 3 (Nov. 20). At Edmonton: Panthers 5, Oilers 2 (Dec. 17).
  • Last Season: Edmonton Won 2-0
  • All-time Regular Season Series: Oilers lead 23-16-0, 3 ties
  • Postseason History: First Meeting

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