2024 Stanley Cup Final Odds: ‘Should Panthers Be Favored?’ Among 6 Burning Questions

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Written By Evan Scrimshaw | Last Updated
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Credit: Associated Press

With two electric Conference Finals in the books, we finally have the Stanley Cup Final matchup. Florida and Edmonton both winning in six means the best teams in each conference square off. With Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, and Matthew Tkachuk, 2024 Stanley Cup odds are full of star power. But with that star power comes a lot of questions.

Hockey odds for Game 1 have Florida favored, as it is to win the series. It starts Saturday, June 8th at 8 p.m. ET on Sportsnet/CBC in Canada and ABC in America.

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6 Burning Questions For 2o24 Stanley Cup Odds

Can Edmonton’s Defense Hold Up?

Ken Holland’s magnum opus, Mattias Ekholm, has been half of arguably the best defense pair of the playoffs. He and Evan Bouchard have been unreal together, with the Oilers scoring 68% of the 5-on-5 goals when the pair is on together. Without them on the ice, the Oilers only manage 34% of 5-on-5 goals. Bouchard has been great as the Power Play captain, and Ekholm has anchored the incredible Penalty Kill, but their steadiness together can lock down a Florida line.

The problem for the Oilers is that there are two Florida lines worthy of being shut down. Bouchard-Ekholm can only manage one of Florida’s top 2 lines, both of which are good enough to be a first line. Verhaeghe-Barkov-Reinhart and Tkachuk-Bennett-Rodrigues are both elite offensive lines. Bouchard and Ekholm can attempt to lock down one, but the rest of the Oilers’ defense will have to manage the other.

Since the Oilers broke up the Nurse-Ceci pairing, the Oilers’ defense has improved. Philip Broberg has given the Oilers a spark since he drew into the lineup. That said, it’s unclear if he can withstand the pressure of this relentless Florida attack. If the Panthers want to win, they’ll have to make the most of the minutes without Bouchard-Ekholm on the ice. Game 1 will be especially interesting to see which line Florida wants out there against weaker defensive competition.

Can Leon Draisaitl Be The Best Player In The Series?

On the other side, Florida is likely going to use Forsling-Ekblad against Nugent-Hopkins/McDavid/Hyman. The Panthers will want to limit the Oilers’ number one line, as the Kings tried to do in Round 1. The Oilers’ top-heavy offensive talent means that they will need the second line to excel – which really means Leon Draisaitl will have to be the best player in the series.

Draisaitl has shown an ability to step up in the playoffs, but this is the series where he’ll need to most. The Panthers’ likely defensive schemes will mean that the Oilers will need scoring out of the Draisaitl line, whoever his linemates are on any given day. Getting a non-zero amount of scoring from the others playing with Draisaitl will be key. More importantly, however, will be Draisaitl being able to drive play without elite linemates. If he can be the best player on the ice, Edmonton’s likely coming home with a Cup. 

Which Stuart Skinner Will We See?

In the first three games against Vancouver, Stuart Skinner put up a .793 Save%. Once put back in for Games 6 and 7, he managed respectability with a .906 Save%. In the Western Conference Finals, he managed a truly elite .923 Save%. The trouble for Oilers fans is knowing which he might bring this round. More than any other variable, Skinner has the ability for both feast and famine. He can be incredible, as he was in Game 6 against Dallas. He also single-handedly blew a 4-1 lead in Game 1 of Round 2.

Sergei Bobrovsky doesn’t exactly have the reputation as a reliable goaltender either. The Florida goalie didn’t even start the 2023 Cup run in the net. But Bobrovsky has been reliable this playoffs, posting a .902 Save% through 2 rounds before putting up a .921 Save% in Round 3. Bobrovsky hasn’t had two bad games back-to-back in all playoffs. If Skinner can match Bobrovsky, that’s a win for the Oilers. But with how stop-and-start Skinner’s been, getting that draw in the net is one hell of an ask. 

Can Florida’s Depth Step Up?

The Panthers only managed 16 goals in the six-game Rangers series, but two came from the third line. Anton Lundell and Vladimir Tarasenko have been reliable performers so far these playoffs in a way their Edmonton counterparts haven’t managed.

The Panthers need Lundell and Tarasenko to score to win this series. More to the point, they need them to outscore the Oilers’ third line of Holloway-Henrique-Kane. The Panthers don’t have the top-end skill of the Oilers, but they are, at least on paper, deeper. That depth has to come through.

Can The Panthers Draw Even On Special Teams?

Edmonton’s special teams have been special in these playoffs. The Oilers Penalty Kill is 28/28 going back to the Canucks series. They scored more goals shorthanded against the Stars than they conceded. Their Power Play, which sputtered at times, gave them both their goals in Game 6. For the playoffs, they’re first in Power Play % (37.3%) and Penalty Kill rate (93.9%). However, Florida is second at 88.2% on the PK.

Whether Edmonton can continue its special teams dominance will be key. If the Panthers can limit the Edmonton PP, then the Oilers probably can’t score enough to win. The Oilers’ top-heavy skill distribution means that they have to score when they get their chances.

On the other side, Florida has to make their PP at least somewhat concerning. They’ve been middle of the road in the playoffs at 23.7%. As noted previously, however, this is the worst goalie they’ve faced yet. They don’t need much success to win, but they can’t get blanked like the Canucks and Stars were in key moments.

Should Panthers Be Favorites?

Florida is the better team; Edmonton has the best two players.

It’s a lame cop-out to say that, but it’s true. Edmonton’s high-end talent is so good that a more fundamentally flawed roster can win. A near week off for the Oilers’ stars will also hugely help. If there is a hockey God, the Oilers will win this, if only so Connor and Leon finally get their Cup.

Florida’s depth is strong – they run three lines deep with people we know are reliable scorers. Lundell and Tarasenko would play Top 6 minutes in Edmonton and are part of a reliable third line for Florida. With Edmonton’s weak defensive depth, they’ll only be able to control one of Florida’s top lines. If the others get their way, Florida will win.

Florida should be able to score reliably. Whether Edmonton can find enough scoring outside of the Nugent-Hopkins/McDavid/Hyman line is unclear. I trust Bobrovsky more than I trust Skinner. And I don’t know if McDavid and Draisaitl alone are enough to win.

Personally, I hope I’m wrong. I’ll be cheering for Edmonton the whole way because Connor and Leon deserve a Cup together. But I can’t shake the feeling that this is Florida’s Cup to lose. Panthers in 7

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