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NHL Morning Skate: Stanley Cup Playoffs Edition – May 21, 2024

* The Oilers are off to the Western Conference Final for the second time in three years after becoming the first team in NHL history with three 20-point players through two rounds, with Evan Bouchard joining that club in Edmonton’s Game 7 victory at Vancouver. It was the record-setting 16th win by a road team in the 2024 Second Round.

* The Conference Finals matchups are set and for the first time in NHL history, each final-four team is looking to claim its first championship in 20-plus years. The Stars (1999), Rangers (1994) and Oilers (1990) all won their last Cup in the 1990s, while the Panthers (30th season) seek their first Cup.

* The Eastern Conference Final will begin Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET (ESPN, ESPN+, SN, TVAS, CBC), followed by the Western Conference Final on Thursday at 8:30 p.m. ET (TNT, truTV, MAX, SN, TVAS, CBC).


FAMILIAR FACES POWER OILERS TO FAMILIAR DESTINATION WITH GAME 7 WIN

The Oilers scored three times during the second period to build a 3-0 lead – a frame that included Zach Hyman’s League-leading 11th goal, two assists from Evan Bouchard and 1-1—2 from Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, the longest-tenured member of the team – and held off another Canucks comeback attempt to secure a Game 7 victory. Edmonton’s win propelled them into the Western Conference Final for the second time in three seasons, where they will face the Stars.

* Hyman became the third Edmonton player in as many years to tally at least 11 goals within his first dozen games of a postseason, following Leon Draisaitl in 2023 (13 in 12 GP) and Evander Kane in 2022 (12 in 12 GP). Only two other teams have had players achieve that feat across three straight postseasons: Edmonton from 1983 to 1985 and Montreal from 1956 to 1958.

* Bouchard, skating in his 40th career playoff game, became the first defenseman in NHL history to record at least 20 points through the first two rounds of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

* The Oilers became the first team in NHL history to have three 20-point players through two rounds of a postseason, with Bouchard (5-15—20) joining Draisaitl (8-16—24) and Connor McDavid (2-19—21). Draisaitl notched an assist on the eventual series-clinching goal to become the seventh different player in NHL history with a point streak of 12-plus games from the start of a postseason.


* The Oilers will next face the Stars, marking the third straight year they will face the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference after being eliminated by eventual Stanley Cup champions Colorado (2022 CF) and Vegas (2023 R2) over the past two postseasons. Edmonton is one of six teams in NHL history to face the No. 1 seed in their conference in at least three consecutive postseasons and first since the Hartford Whalers had a run of four straight meetings against the No. 1 seed from the Prince of Wales Conference from 1988 to 1991. Click here for more notes on the matchup.

CONFERENCE FINALS BEGIN WEDNESDAY IN NEW YORK, THURSDAY IN DALLAS

After a one-day break between rounds, the Eastern Conference Final will begin Wednesday when the Panthers and Rangers contest Game 1 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The Western Conference Final will open Thursday when the Oilers visit the Stars for Game 1 at American Airlines Center in Dallas. Click here for the complete Conference Finals schedule, which includes one game per day from May 22 through June 4 (as necessary).

* The winner of Game 1 in best-of-seven series during the round before the Stanley Cup Final goes on to win the series 68% of the time (112-53, .679 W%), including a 52-30 mark since the Conference Finals began in 1982 (including the 2021 SCSF).

HISTORIC FINAL FOUR ALL SEEKING FIRST CUP IN 20+ YEARS

Three teams that clinched division titles in 2023-24 and a club that overcame one of the largest deficits in League history simply to secure a spot in the postseason are the final four still skating in the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Each team in the final four is seeking its first championship in 20-plus years – a first in NHL history.

* This marks the first time since 2018 and 10th time since 1980 that three division winners from the regular season are among the final four teams competing for the Stanley Cup. Before 2024, the last time the Eastern Conference Final was a matchup between division winners was 2018 when the Capitals (No. 1 in Metropolitan) defeated the higher-ranked Lightning (No. 1 in Atlantic) in Game 7 before eventually winning the Cup. The Western Conference Final that year also pitted a division winner against a Canadian team – the expansion Golden Knights (No. 1 in Pacific) defeated the Jets (No. 2 in Central) to secure an historic spot in the Final.

* The remaining teams have a combined 10 Stanley Cup wins, with the Oilers (5) accounting for half and the Rangers (4) and Stars (1) combining for the other five. Aside from Edmonton’s dynasty that won all five of its Cups during a seven-year span from 1984 to 1990, the four remaining clubs have only two other championships during the League’s expansion era (since 1967-68): New York won in 1994 and Dallas won in 1999.

OILERS RALLY FROM SECOND-LAST IN NHL TO FINAL FOUR IN STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS

The Oilers sat in last place in the NHL standings a week into the season, ranked 31st overall when they made a head coaching change in November and were among the bottom three teams in the League in early December. Their largest deficit behind the lowest-ranked playoff team was 10 points (entering U.S. Thanksgiving) and they account for one of 12 instances in the past 30 years of a club even qualifying for the playoffs after being that far out (the 11 others in that span).

* Edmonton accounts for each of the past two instances of a team making an in-season coaching change and then reaching the Conference Finals – they also did so in 2021-22, their last appearance in the final four. Overall, this is the seventh such instance since 2013-14.

* The Oilers are the fourth team in NHL history to advance to the final four in the Stanley Cup Playoffs after overcoming a standings deficit of 10-plus points in the regular season just to qualify for the playoffs (min. 1 series win en route to final four). Edmonton also accounts for the first such instance, achieved in 1990-91 when they were 10 points back on Nov. 13, 1990, before rallying to qualify for the postseason where they defeated a Canadian foe (Calgary) and Los Angeles before lining up with the Minnesota North Stars in the Conference Finals.
 


* Of note: In addition to the teams noted above, two others were among the final four in the Stanley Cup Playoffs after being 10-plus points outside the playoffs during the regular season – but they did not have to win any rounds to get there. The 1958-59 Maple Leafs (10 points out on Dec. 3, 1958) and 1959-60 Blackhawks (13 points out on Nov. 13, 1959) both qualified in four-team playoff fields after facing a double-digit standings deficit; Toronto won its only series to reach the Final (where they lost), while Chicago was eliminated in its first series.

STANLEY CUP CHAMPIONS FEW AND FAR BETWEEN AMONG FINAL FOUR

There are more remaining players with 1,000-plus regular-season games chasing their first Stanley Cup than there are Stanley Cup-winning players among the four remaining teams:

* Only six players remaining in the 2024 postseason have won the Stanley Cup, the fewest in the final four since 2018 (4) and tied for the second fewest since 1927 when the NHL took sole control of the Stanley Cup competition (also 6 in 1986 and 2006).

* Among the remaining players seeking their first Cup are seven who have played at least 1,000 regular-season games – at least one per team with Dallas having four and the others all with one. Dallas can become the first team in NHL history with three 1,000-game players who win the Cup for the first time.

* The four head coaches have a combined 455 playoff games and only one Stanley Cup, won by Rangers head coach Peter Laviolette 18 years ago with Carolina (in his fourth season).

2024 SECOND ROUND RECAP: SNAPSHOT OF LEAGUE TRENDS

A few League trends to look for when the #NHLStats Pack: Second Round Recap is released later today:
 

* Edmonton claimed the 16th victory by the road team in the 2024 Second Round, setting an NHL record for wins by the visiting team in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

* Game 7 between the Oilers and Canucks was the 15th one-goal game in the 2024 Second Round, tied for the second most ever in a second round in NHL history (16 in 2007 CSF and 15 in 2015 R2).

* The 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs were the sixth postseason in NHL history where all four second round series required at least six games.

* While you wait for the latest stats pack, check out more #NHLStats from Game 7 in the May 20 edition of Live Updates.

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