Connor McDavid Leon Draisaitl [1296x729]
Connor McDavid Leon Draisaitl [1296x729] (Credit: Curtis Comeau/Icon Sportswire)

Pirates bring 1-0 series advantage over White Sox into game 2

The narrow betting odds for the Stanley Cup Final between the Edmonton Oilers and Florida Panthers matches the projected narrative: a seven-game series that could go either way. The two regular-season tete-a-tetes between these clubs fell way back in November and December, so even though the Panthers crushed Edmonton in both games, those outcomes should have little bearing on this series.

As such, to determine which team ultimately ends up victorious on or before June 24th, several questions -- just a sampling here -- first need answering:

How will the Oilers' skill and creativity, driven by two of the globe's best players, match up against Florida's balanced depth, forecheck and (successful) penchant for physical play? Will the Panthers manage to skirt the edges of making mayhem without finding themselves in penalty trouble against a club that rediscovered its power-play magic in the latter stages against Dallas?

Can Zach Hyman continue to be a productive front-of-net presence? If Selke winner Aleksander Barkov is tasked with shutting down Connor McDavid, who takes care of Leon Draisaitl, on another Edmonton scoring unit? And how effective will (the answer) Matthew Tkachuk perform in that regard?

Which version of Stuart Skinner will we see this series? Can Sergei Bobrovsky -- with his running .921 save percentage and 1.77 goals against average since Game 2 vs. the Bruins -- continue to (somewhat quietly) dominate between the pipes? How much does home-ice advantage favor Paul Maurice's charges? How badly is Sam Bennett going to hurt a key member of the opposition? Because you know he's going to try, again, without harming his side on the special teams front. Once more, just a few queries that need satisfying before trying to figure out which way this series unfolds. Questions that appear to favor either side, in turn. No wonder most anticipate this battle to be close.

Bolstering that expectation further, it's a little strange to see the lowest outcome odds favor the Panthers in seven games, yet the second lowest has the Oilers in six. The spread and series lengths also both back up the idea of neither team pulling away and this final continuing to at least June 21.

Series exact result

Edmonton Oilers 4-0 (+1300)

Edmonton Oilers 4-1 (+750)

Edmonton Oilers 4-2 (+450)

Edmonton Oilers 4-3 (+500)

Florida Panthers 4-0 (+1100)

Florida Panthers 4-1 (+500)

Florida Panthers 4-2 (+500)

Florida Panthers 4-3 (+425)

Specials

Carter Verhaeghe to score the first goal in any game in the Stanley Cup Final (+120): I don't know why I'm always drawn to "first goal" bets in the specials. Maybe it's because it's over quickly one way or the other and I can enjoy the game from there? But Verhaeghe to get the first one at some point is a fair enough call. As mentioned before, he got the first goal in a game six times during the regular season -- including once against the Oilers -- and once so far in these playoffs. The odds are awfully low for such a random occurrence, though, so if you want something a little spicier with Verhaeghe ...

Carter Verhaeghe to record over 2.5 shots on goal in each game in the Stanley Cup Final (+1000): I really like the "in each game" specials because there is a chance that you need the event to happen only four times. I know a sweep for either team isn't expected, but that doesn't mean it won't happen. So getting big odds for Verhaeghe to fire three shots in each game is a tantalizing proposition. He has hit that threshold in 11 of 17 playoff games, including a stretch of four consecutive games on two separate occasions. -- Sean Allen

Sam Reinhart & Sam Bennett each to score over 1.5 goals in the Stanley Cup Final (+165): This is my favorite ESPN BET offer. While Reinhart -- a pending unrested free agent who had 57 goals in the regular season -- scored in three games against the Rangers, Bennett potted four. Against New York's series MVP Igor Shesterkin. Unless Skinner is consistently as spectacular as he was the final two contests versus Dallas, each of the Sams stand an excellent chance of finding the back of the net twice. Edmonton's top defensive pair Evan Bouchard and Mattias Ekholm, outstanding this postseason to date, can't play the entire game. -- Victoria Matiash

Zach Hyman to score over 19.5 goals in the playoffs (+800): Hyman needs six to bust through the record of 19 postseason goals. If you answer the above relevant question with yes, the Oilers forward will indeed continue to prove a productive front-of-net presence, especially if/when the Panthers find themselves in penalty trouble, then this proposition should appeal to you as well. Especially at that number. -- Matiash

See also:

Aleksander Barkov to record over 1.5 shots on goal in each game in the Stanley Cup Final (+400) Over 2.5 total overtimes in Panthers vs. Oilers series (+450) Series exact total games

4 games (+600)

5 games (+275)

6 games (+195)

7 games (+195)

Conn Smythe best bets:

Give me this year's Selke winner at (Aleksander Barkov) +400 all day long. If the Panthers do end up hoisting Lord Stanley by the series' conclusion, there's an excellent chance Barkov's work in limiting Edmonton's top performers (McDavid, for one) will have much to do with it. While the Oilers superstar is arguably a bit next level compared to Tampa's Nikita Kucherov, Boston's David Pastrnak and New York's finest up front, Barkov might also ratchet it up a notch as the best stifling, two-way forward in the game. And he scores, too. --Matiash

Connor McDavid (+200) is beyond no-brainer territory to me. Heck, there's even an odds boost bet that gives you odds on him winning the Conn Smythe even if the Panthers get the Cup (throwback to 2003 at +1000, and a nice little nod to Jean-Sebastien Giguere). As for the Panthers, it's a very tight race on the books. Although Barkov sits in pole position despite not having as much headlining impact as Sergei Bobrovsky in the series against the Rangers. -- Allen

Long shot bets:

If Zach Hyman (+7500) manages to break the playoff goals record of 19 with at least six in this series and if those goals come at impactful moments, there's a world where he could squeak out the votes. Especially if the Panthers somehow keep McDavid's output to at least a dull roar. If I'm putting down a long shot for the Conn Smythe trophy, this might be the only narrative I could see changing the outcome from the favorites. -- Allen

While I like Hyman as a long shot, Sam Bennett (+6000) could also give voters plenty to consider if he continues to bang his way through this playoff run, while also contributing at key times. Toss in a game winner (or two?), and he'll also attract some deserved attention away from the best-of-seven's more popular candidates. -- Matiash

All odds accurate as of publish time. For more, go to ESPN BET. 

Edmonton Oilers at Florida Panthers

Amerant Bank Arena, Sunrise, Florida; Saturday, 8 p.m. ET 

Game 1 Puck line: Panthers -1.5 (+180); Oilers+1.5 (-235) Game 1 Over/Under: 5.5 (-115/-105) Game 1 Money line: Panthers (-135); Oilers (+115)

Ah, yes, more odds that generally resemble a coin flip. I remember you from the series projections.

The Panthers are slightly favored in an affair that tilts toward the over. But we'll see what kind of pace this series sets. The Panthers were dominant at home against the Rangers, and the Oilers are coming off one of the most lopsided against them victories we've seen in a while. That Game 6 for the Oilers and Stars was such a strange affair; no team had a lower Corsi percentage (24.74%, per NaturalStatTrick.com) in the regular season in any game -- even in a loss -- than the Oilers had in that victory to advance to the Cup. They really did advance by the Skin(ner) of their teeth.

Matthew Tkachuk anytime goalscorer & to record an assist & Panthers to win (+690): This featured bet isn't asking all that much. While Tkachuk has a goal and assist in only four games out of 17 in this postseason, three of those four were the series openers in each of the previous three rounds. He really does like to lead by example. The Cats are at home and favored for the victory. This is a nice offer, as parlaying them separately instead of the feature is sitting at +679. -- Allen

Sergei Bobrovsky total saves; under 24.5 (-115): Bob hasn't had to make more than 24 saves at home since Boston was in town for Game 5, and it happened only once prior to that against Tampa Bay. The Panthers soak up so much of the possession time on home ice it's difficult for opponents to generate a lot of chances. -- Allen

Parlay (+511): Aleksander Barkov total power-play points; over 0.5 (+190) & Carter Verhaeghe total goals; over 0.5 (+155): Fourteen of Barkov's 17 playoff points have come when the Panthers are playing in Sunrise. Taking him for a power-play point means someone else will be in on it, so why not his partner in crime? Verhaeghe has five goals at home -- two on the advantage -- and offers a bigger boost than Sam Reinhart, who is the other parlay option here (+135). -- Allen

Evander Kane Total Goals; Over 0.5 (+340): Reunited with Leon Draisaitl and Dylan Holloway on Edmonton's second scoring line ahead of Game 1 in Florida, Kane stands a greater chance to contribute to the scoresheet than otherwise (Draisaitl contributed assists on two of Kane's four tallies to date). Counted on to be at his blustery, forechecking best, the winger is believed to have benefited from the extra time off between series while playing through a sports hernia. This chippy, aggressive, physical head-to-head might suit the veteran more than any other member of the Oilers. You know he's right revved up to get the better of matchup adversary Matthew Tkachuk. What better way to do that than to find the back of the net? -- Victoria Matiash

Parlay (+233): Zach Hyman Total Goals; Over 0.5 (+105) & Evan Bouchard Total Assists; Over 0.5 (-115): How are we feeling about Hyman -- who leads the league with 14 goals -- breaking that 19-goal playoff record? Potting one in Game 1 would certainly go some length to helping that cause. Failing to register an assist in only six games this postseason, Bouchard ranks second only to teammate Connor McDavid with 21 in 18 contests. Oh, and the defender has assisted on half of Hyman's 14 thus far. It's also hardly difficult to conceive of the two top power-play colleagues collaborating on a special teams' tally if/when(?) the Panthers get into penalty trouble. -- Matiash

2024 Stanley Cup Final schedule

All times eastern.

Game 1

Saturday, June 8: Oilers at Panthers, 8 p.m., ABC

Money line: Oilers +115, Panthers -135

Total: 5.5

Game 2

Monday, June 10: Oilers at Panthers, 8 p.m.,  ABC

Game 3

Thursday, June 13: Panthers at Oilers 8 p.m., ABC

Game 4

Saturday, June 15: Panthers at Oilers 8 p.m., ABC

Game 5*

Tuesday, June 18: Oilers at Panthers, 8 p.m., ABC

Game 6*

Friday, June 21: Panthers at Oilers 8 p.m., ABC

Game 7*

Monday, June 24: Oilers at Panthers, 8 p.m., ABC

*If necessary