How Panthers-Oilers mirror past Stanley Cup Final matchups

The 1997 Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings are a comparable team to one of this year's finals teams, but which one is it? AP Photo/Tom Pidgeon

This year's Stanley Cup Final between the Florida Panthers and the Edmonton Oilers, with Game 1 on Saturday (8 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN+), comes with many fascinating unknowns. For instance, it's unknown whether the battle of best player versus best team will be won by Connor McDavid or the Panthers, respectively, and we don't know whom the big travel distances of the series -- the teams are located a Finals-record 2,541 miles apart -- will favor.

But in terms of the two teams' colliding playing styles and statistical résumés, some guesses can be made about how the Oilers-Panthers matchup might go by looking at similar Stanley Cup Finals from the past.

Along those lines, we're taking inspiration from an exercise we ran before the playoffs, in which we looked for the past champions most comparable to this year's top contenders based on a variety of statistical indicators: Florida's doppelgänger? The 2007 Anaheim Ducks. And Edmonton's? The 2001 Colorado Avalanche.

This time around, we are adding an extra twist: Rather than looking at the most similar matches for just one team at a time, we searched for the most similar pair of Finals combatants to Edmonton and Florida, using their playoff stats to date.

Among the indicators we looked at were postseason winning percentage, goals-per-game differential, goals scored/allowed relative to league average, and goaltending performance, in addition to more esoteric categories such as a team's dependence on its power play, the production of its top star, the share of its offense coming from the blue line and how many penalties it takes. Converting each stat to its percentile rank relative to all Final teams, and weighting the more important categories more, we found the combinations of Final teams since 1980 (which was the first season of the NHL's 16-team playoff bracket) that were most similar to Florida and Edmonton.

Amazingly, when we look at the 10 most similar Final matchups, the Oilers and Panthers are split evenly, with five comparable series won by each current team's equivalent from the past. So for both squads in this year's Final, let's break down the five most similar series that could portend a victory for each side in 2024.