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Stanley Cup Playoffs: Final Four Teams Locked in Tight Battle

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Stanley Cup Playoffs: Final Four Teams Locked in Tight Battle

The Stanley Cup playoffs are one of the most exciting times in hockey. This year, the competition is wide open as no clear favorite has emerged. The Dallas Stars, Edmonton Oilers, and New York Rangers are all listed with the same odds (+250) to win the Stanley Cup (as of May 27) with the Florida Panthers slightly behind them as the Conference Finals heads into its final week.

Let’s examine the top NHL teams that are vying for the Stanley Cup this year:

Florida Panthers

The Florida Panthers are riding high on the momentum from their impressive performance last season. As the defending Eastern Conference champions, they have established themselves as serious contenders for the Stanley Cup. The Panthers wrapped up the regular season with 110 points, tying for the fourth-highest in the NHL.

One of their strong suits has been their command of the game; they controlled 54.86% of the expected goals (xG) at five-on-five during the season, though this percentage dipped slightly to 50.22% in the playoffs due to tougher competition.

Their power play effectiveness also saw a minor drop from 23.8% in the regular season to 22.0% in the postseason. Nevertheless, the team remains solid across the board, boasting a balanced roster with few weaknesses.

Goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky was a standout last season, saving 16.3 goals above expected. While he’s not quite at that level this year, he continues to be a reliable presence in the net, saving 0.237 goals above expected per 60 minutes through the first two rounds.

However, Bobrovsky let in five goals on Sunday, and after the Panthers’ Game 3 overtime loss to the Rangers, they saw their playoff odds drop considerably, going from the favorites to win the Stanley Cup to now the longshots. They can get themselves back on track if they are able to win Game 4 on Tuesday night at home. The Rangers currently lead the series 2-1.

New York Rangers

The New York Rangers won the President’s Trophy as the top team in the regular season and are showing why they are the best team in the league in the Eastern Conference Finals. The Rangers started the playoffs strong, winning their first seven playoff games this postseason.

After securing the first three games against the Carolina Hurricanes in Round 2, New York faced some adversity by losing two straight and trailing 3-1 in the third period of Game 6 before pulling off a miraculous comeback win to end the series. And in the Eastern Conference Finals, despite losing Game 1 to the Panthers, they bounced back with two overtime wins to give themselves a 2-1 series lead.

Despite their success, the Rangers’ five-on-five play remains a concern, with a five-on-five xG% that ranks 20th in the league, while other remaining teams are in the top five. However, New York has strengths that may help them overcome this. Igor Shesterkin has been excellent in the playoffs and could be considered the best goalie in the postseason over his counterpart Sergei Bobrovsky.

The Rangers’ special teams are also impressive, boasting the third-best power play and the second-best penalty kill. With the added advantage of home ice for the remainder of the playoffs, the Rangers, at +250 odds, are considered by many as the true favorite.

Dallas Stars

The Stars battled their way through the challenging Central Division, facing a tough series against both the Vegas Golden Knights and the Colorado Avalanche. Winning against the Golden Knights in seven games and the Avalanche in six, the Stars demonstrated resilience and skill.

They boast the best-expected goals (xG) rate at full strength in the playoffs, standing at an impressive 55.47%. A major factor in their success is goaltender Jake Oettinger, who has significantly improved his performance from the regular season. Oettinger saved 0.037 goals above expected per 60 minutes during the regular season but has elevated his game in the playoffs, saving 0.375 per 60 minutes thus far.

The Stars have room for growth, particularly with Jason Robertson, who has scored just three goals in 13 playoff games despite being a key offensive player. Additionally, Roope Hintz’s injury status is a concern, but Dallas’ deep roster remains a formidable force.

Just like the Eastern Conference Finals, the Western Conference Finals have proven to be just as intense, with the Dallas Stars and Edmonton Oilers splitting the first two games in Dallas, both one-goal games.

Edmonton Oilers

The Edmonton Oilers faced a challenging second round, narrowly defeating the Vancouver Canucks in seven games despite the Canucks’ goaltending issues. This struggle has raised concerns about their readiness and stamina moving forward.

Goalie Stuart Skinner’s performance this postseason has been worrisome, allowing 0.215 goals above expected per 60 minutes, the second-worst among goalies with at least five playoff games. Furthermore, Edmonton’s five-on-five play remains problematic, generating just 2.41 expected goals per 60 minutes, ranking ninth in the playoffs.

Nevertheless, the Oilers boast top-end talent, with the leading point scorers in the playoffs and Zach Hyman as the postseason’s top goal-scorer (going into the Western Conference Finals). Thus far, they have managed to go toe-to-toe with the Stars as the series goes back to Edmonton.

SEE ALSO: The Difference Between Streameast and Crackstreams Live Sports

Salman Ahmad is a seasoned writer for CTN News, bringing a wealth of experience and expertise to the platform. With a knack for concise yet impactful storytelling, he crafts articles that captivate readers and provide valuable insights. Ahmad's writing style strikes a balance between casual and professional, making complex topics accessible without compromising depth.

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