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NHL betting experts break down Florida-Edmonton Stanley Cup Final

The Florida Panthers somehow left Las Vegas without a Stanley Cup hangover last summer after losing the NHL championship series to the Golden Knights.

Florida is back in the Stanley Cup Final and favored to become only the third team in the NHL’s expansion era (post-1967) to win the Stanley Cup a year after losing in the final series.

The Panthers are -140 series favorites over the Edmonton Oilers, who are +120 underdogs to become the first Canadian team in 31 years to lift the Cup.

Florida, a -130 home favorite in Game 1 on Saturday, opened as a -130 series favorite at the Westgate SuperBook before it was bet up.

“We definitely have more money on Florida,” SuperBook veteran oddsmaker Ed Salmons said. “They’re certainly a deserving team and have the experience of playing last year. That should only help them.”

Salmons forecasts a long, low-scoring series.

“It looks like it’s such a close series. The line is basically saying these two teams are about equals, with home ice being (-140) for Florida,” he said. “It figures to be a long series. I expect a lower-scoring series just how both these teams play.

“These games are going to be like 2-1, 3-1, 3-2. It just feels like that kind of series.”

The total for Game 1 is 5½ goals (over -115). The Panthers have gone under in eight of their last nine playoff games, and the Oilers enter on a 7-2-1 under run.

“There was a point with Edmonton where their totals were 7. Then they started going down to 6½, 6 and now 5½,” Salmons said. “The big thing that we’ve never seen before from Edmonton is they’re very defensively responsible now.

“They always used to want to play high-scoring games. But this Edmonton team is the complete opposite of that.”

The Oilers opened the season with a 3-9-1 record before firing coach Jay Woodcroft and replacing him with Kris Knoblauch. Edmonton went 46-18-5 the rest of the way, compiling a 16-game win streak at one point that was ended by the Knights. The Oilers eliminated the Kings, Canucks and Stars to reach the Final.

The Panthers won the Atlantic Division before beating the Lightning, Bruins and Rangers to return to the Final.

Professional handicapper Dana Lane likes Florida to win in six games, which pays +450 at the Westgate.

“With this being the longest distance ever between Stanley Cup participants, I think home advantage is massive with it being a 5½-hour flight between the two cities,” said Lane (@DanaLaneSports). “There are no direct flights between Edmonton and Fort Lauderdale.”

He also gives the edge in goaltending and depth to the Panthers with Sergei Bobrovsky (12-5, 2.20 goals-against average, .908 save percentage) over Stuart Skinner (11-5, 2.50, .897), and eight forwards with more than 40 points, including playoffs.

“And you can’t discount the recent experience factor after losing to the Knights last year,” he said.

Pro handicapper Alex B. Smith (AxSmithSports.com) recommends a play on the first period over 1½ (-110) in the series opener.

“With the days off, (Panthers coach) Paul Maurice will be ready to scheme and play chess with Knoblauch,” said Smith (@axsmithsports). “I expect rust early on defense.”

Conn Smythe odds

Oilers star center Connor McDavid, a three-time Hart Memorial Trophy winner as the NHL MVP, is the 2-1 favorite to win the Conn Smythe Trophy, awarded to the playoff MVP.

McDavid leads the playoffs in scoring with 31 points, followed by teammates Leon Draisaitl (28) and Evan Bouchard (27).

Florida center Aleksander Barkov is the +325 second choice to win the Conn Smythe, followed by Bobrovsky (+475), Panthers left wing Matthew Tkachuk (+550), Draisaitl (8-1) and Bouchard (10-1).

“For Edmonton, you have to look at McDavid. If they win, it’s going to be him. I can’t see any way around it,” Salmons said. “For Florida, it’s such a deep team. There are so many guys it could be, including the goalie.”

Contact reporter Todd Dewey at tdewey@reviewjournal.com. Follow @tdewey33 on X.

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