SI:AM | Panthers-Oilers Game 7 Is a Sports Fan’s Dream

No matter the result, it’ll be a real treat for neutral observers.
Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Good morning, I’m Dan Gartland. I saw quite a few Oilers fans on their way to Florida for Game 7 when I was at the Atlanta airport Sunday.

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The Edmonton Oilers have already joined a very exclusive group. After falling behind 3–0 in the Stanley Cup Final against the Florida Panthers, the Oilers are just the 10th team in NHL history to come back and force a Game 7. On Monday, they have a chance to join an even more exclusive group if they can complete the comeback and win the series. 

Oilers-Panthers is a very strange matchup for a Stanley Cup Final. It’s the NHL’s northernmost team against its southernmost team. It’s a franchise that had one of the greatest dynasties in the sport’s history against one that has never won a Stanley Cup. And it’s a team from a country that hasn’t won a Cup since 1993 versus a team that entered the league a year after that. But while this series isn’t a matchup of longtime rivals or of marquee franchises, it’s turned out to be one of the most intriguing Finals in recent memory.  

The Panthers looked like they would cruise to their first championship in franchise history after jumping to a 3–0 series lead—and not just because such a deficit has been nearly insurmountable historically. The Oilers looked sloppy in the first three games, making too many mistakes that the Panthers capitalized on. A 3–0 comeback is a daunting task even for a team that has played well but suffered some bad breaks. It should be impossible for a team that was playing as poorly as Edmonton did in the first three games. But the Oilers saved their season with an 8–1 thumping in Game 4, won Game 5 by a score of 5–3 and then cruised to victory in Game 6, 5–1, to set up Game 7. 

If the Panthers are going to win Monday night, they’ll need goalie Sergei Bobrovsky to play like he did at the start of the series. He was excellent in the first three games, allowing just four goals and stopping 95.3% of the shots he faced. He’s been dismal in the last three games, though, allowing 12 goals while stopping just 79.3% of shots. Bobrovsky was given the day off from practice Sunday, which Panthers coach Paul Maurice said was nothing more than the goalie resuming the routine he had kept earlier in the playoffs. 

Regardless of how Game 7 turns out, it will be fascinating for neutral fans. The Oilers are the first team since 1945 to even force a Game 7 after falling behind 3–0 in the Stanley Cup Final and could become the first since the ’42 Toronto Maple Leafs to complete a 3–0 comeback to win the Cup. Edmonton is seeking its first championship since ’90 and would be the first team from Canada to win the Cup since the ’93 Montreal Canadiens. It would also be a colossal moment for the Oilers’ star player, Connor McDavid, who has been the best player in the NHL for years but has yet to lift the Cup. 

A loss would be heartbreaking for Florida—not just because it’s nearly unprecedented, but also because it would be the Panthers’ second straight loss in the Final. (They lost in five games last year to the Vegas Golden Knights.) Joining the short list of teams forced to play in a Game 7 after taking a 3–0 lead is embarrassing, but it’ll be largely forgotten if they’re able to finish the job at home. A win would also mark the first championship for what has been one of the most historically inept franchises in the NHL. The Panthers reached the Stanley Cup Final in their third season (1995–96) but then went 22 years before winning another playoff series. Florida is building something special now, though, having won the Presidents’ Trophy in the 2021–22 season as the team with the best regular-season record in the NHL and now reached the Final in two straight years. A win in Game 7 could be the start of a special run.

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Dan Gartland


Dan Gartland is the writer and editor of Sports Illustrated’s flagship daily newsletter, SI:AM, covering everything an educated sports fan needs to know. Previously published on Deadspin and Slate, Dan also is a former Sports Jeopardy! champion (Season 1, Episode 5).