The Stanley Cup will be awarded Monday night. It's the Oilers and Panthers in Game 7

Mon, Jun 24, 2024
NHL News (AP)

The Stanley Cup will be awarded Monday night. It's the Oilers and Panthers in Game 7

SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) - A perk of being the captain of an NHL team is this: If your team wins a championship, you get perhaps the ultimate honor in the sport.

You get to be the player who accepts the Stanley Cup on the ice after the game.

Will it be Connor McDavid on behalf of the Edmonton Oilers, seeking their sixth title but first since 1990? Will it be Aleksander Barkov on behalf of the Florida Panthers, seeking the first title in franchise history? The answer comes Monday night, when the Oilers and Panthers play Game 7 of a Stanley Cup Final that was all Florida at the start, all Edmonton ever since, and now one last game will decide everything.

"Obviously, it's not your ordinary game," said McDavid, who is generally considered the best player in hockey right now and is likely the favorite to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as MVP of the playoffs. "Everybody understands that. But you've got to make it as ordinary as possible in your head."

It will not be an ordinary game. It's Game 7, the last game of the season and the capper of a series that has been bonkers; Florida won the first three games, then Edmonton won the next three games - all of them handily, too - to keep staving off elimination.

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The stakes couldn't be higher.

Florida is trying to avoid becoming the second team in NHL history to take a 3-0 lead in the title series and not win the Stanley Cup; Detroit wasted such a lead against Toronto in 1942.

Edmonton is trying to become the first team based in Canada to win the Cup since 1993, an issue of such national importance north of the border that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wrote "All of Canada's behind you. Let's bring the Cup home" to the Oilers on social media as the series was getting underway. It is the longest drought for Canada in Cup history.

"We won three, they won three," Panthers forward Matthew Tkachuk said. "Both teams have an opportunity. ... Very exciting. Kind of leave-it-all-out-there, desperation on both sides. It all comes down to this."

When the game ends, the Cup will be brought to the ice. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman will say a few words, then present it to the winning captain before he skates away to start the celebration with the newly crowned champions.

Will it be McDavid? Will it be Barkov? The moment they have dreamed about since they started putting on skates as little kids is here, and only one of them will capture it on Monday night.

"It comes down to this last one," Panthers defenseman Brandon Montour said, "and it's going to be a fun one."

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AP NHL playoffs: https://apnews.com/hub/stanley-cup and https://www.apnews.com/hub/NHL

TIM REYNOLDS Reynolds is an Associated Press sports writer, based in South Florida. twitter mailto "
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