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History is decisively on the side of the Oilers


What’s the one pre-game statistic that may provide comfort for nervous Edmonton Oilers fans as their team enters Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final?

Goal differential.

The series has been wild, and it is perfectly fitting this matchup will be decided by way of a Game 7.

The first half of the series, save for some stretches of Game 1, was dominated by the Florida Panthers. The second half of the series – hallmarked by a ferocious Edmonton rally, winning three consecutive games to force the series the distance – has been all Oilers, all the time.

But though the series appears to be a dead heat on the surface, just about every game has been a lopsided affair in one direction or another.

Six games in, Edmonton has outscored Florida 22-16, carrying an average margin of victory of 1.0 goals per game. That’s what happens when you win games in blowout fashion, and although fans can be quick to write off such decisive single-game outcomes, degree of dominance matters.

It wasn’t a week ago people were ready to write off Edmonton’s 8-1 victory in Game 4 as little more than a desperate team staving off elimination. Just two games later, the Oilers pulled off another commanding victory, winning by four and sending the series back to Sunrise, Fla. 

With the series deadlocked three despite the lopsided goal differential, it made me curious if there were any other modern-era comparables and what the likelihood is of a team hoisting the Stanley Cup despite being outscored over the basis of the series

The below table shows every Stanley Cup Final since the 2007-08 series. It goes without saying most of the teams who won the title outscored their opponent over the series (no surprise there), with only two outliers: the 2008-09 Pittsburgh Penguins, and the 2018-2019 St. Louis Blues.

A few thoughts as it relates to this year’s matchup and the Oilers, in no particular order:

  • Edmonton’s goal differential in the series (and associated margin of victory) is in line with most teams who ended up winning the title in about five or six games. Notably, the one significant outlier here would be the 2010-11 Boston Bruins, who had to fight through a lengthy series against the Vancouver Canucks despite blitzing them on a nightly basis. It’s a good comparable to this series in some respect: Vancouver’s wins were on razor-thin margins (1-0; 3-2; 1-0); Boston’s wins were always of the multi-goal variety, ending in a Game 7 win.
  • The 2008-09 Pittsburgh Penguins defeated the Detroit Red Wings while being outscored 17-14 over the course of the series. How did that happen? In Detroit’s four losses, the team mustered less than five per cent shooting against the venerable Marc-Andre Fleury.
  • The 2018-19 St. Louis Blues defeated the Bruins while being outscored 22-18 over the course of the series. How did that happen? By way of a hideous Game 7, in which then-head coach Bruce Cassidy’s team managed to implode on both sides of the ice – Tuukka Rask stopping just 16 of 20 shots, and Bruins forwards shooting zero (yes, zero) per cent in the decisive game.

So yes, there’s some degree of precedent for teams outplayed over the course of the series finding a way to win.

And in defence of Florida, this has been a tale of two series for them in particular. Games one through three looked very much like the team that steamrolled the Eastern Conference all year, while games four through six looked a lot more like the team that was rinsed by the Vegas Golden Knights in last year’s Stanley Cup Final.

That said, history is decisively on Edmonton’s side here. It is awfully difficult to play as well as Edmonton has over the course of this series and lose. Kris Knoblauch’s team needs to execute for all 60 minutes if they want to end their 32-year championship drought.

As for my prediction, it remains the same: Oilers in six. Or six-ish!

Data via Natural Stat Trick,, Evolving Hockey, Hockey Reference