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Connor McDavid starts the Stanley Cup Final with the Oilers. © APA / CODIE MCLACHLAN

McDavid's coronation and end of the Canada curse?

The Edmonton Oilers want to write a new chapter of success in their great history and help Connor McDavid crown his career. There's still one step missing.

The captain, who is currently considered the best ice hockey player in the world, led a team with a lot of offensive power to the final of the National Hockey League. Now he wants to complete his mission in the final series against the Florida Panthers starting Saturday (Sunday 2 a.m., CEST) and bring the Stanley Cup to Edmonton for the sixth time.

The hopes in Alberta of being able to follow the golden era of Wayne Gretzky with the four triumphs in 1984, 1985, 1987 and 1988 as well as the success in 1990 with captain Mark Messier have rested on McDavid for years. The generational talent was chosen number one in the 2015 draft and is now in the final for the first time. “There have been a lot of growing pains, a lot of lessons learned, and of course it feels great to be in this position. That was always part of the plan,” McDavid said.

He himself played a significant role in it. The 27-year-old is the best scorer in the playoffs with 31 points, but his colleagues also produce a lot. Leon Draisaitl and defender Evan Bouchard follow in second and third place in the points rankings, while Zack Hyman leads the scorers list. It's no surprise that the Oilers have the best power play in the playoffs, but they're number one even when shorthanded.

“It’s going to be a good series.” Carter Verhaeghe

However, the Panthers proved against the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Boston Bruins and New York Rangers that they can handle the opponent's top-class offense and strong power play. They also achieved this in the regular season duels with Edmonton when they won both games (5:3 and 5:1). “They have some pretty special players. It will be a good series,” said Florida striker Carter Verhaeghe.

Sergei Bobrovsky is hard to overcome at Florida. © APA / SEAN M. HAFFEY

The Panthers also impressed with their special teams and, in Sergei Bobrovsky, have a goalkeeper who has already been voted the best goalkeeper in the league twice and is also one of the finalists this year. Last year, the team from Sunrise had to admit defeat to the Vegas Golden Knights in the final, and they don't want to miss their second chance. “You don’t come back often. I know how it stinks to lose a final. I don’t want to experience that anymore,” explained defender Mattias Ekholm, who lost in the 2017 final with the Nashville Predators.

Canada has been without a Stanley Cup for 31 years

The gang has two very different guys: Kris Knoblauch and Paul Maurice. Knoblauch only took over the Oilers in mid-November after parting ways with Jay Woodcroft, after which the Canadiens were the best team in the league. Florida's Maurice is the head coach with the second most games, led the Carolina Hurricanes to the finals in 2002 and the Panthers last year and is now hoping for his big triumph.

If the Panthers win, hockey's most coveted trophy would go to a team from the sunshine state of Florida for the third time in the past five seasons, following Tampa Bay's success in 2020 and 2021. A win for the Oilers would end a 31-year-long negative streak for Canadian teams. The Montreal Canadiens were the last team from the motherland of ice hockey to lift the Stanley Cup in 1993.

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