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Fink: Barkov Won Round One Against McDavid

And his defensive ability gives the Panthers the edge in this series against the Oilers

June 10 2024
Aleksander Barkov and Sergei Bobrovsky helped shut down the Oilers offense in Game One. SOURCE: NHL (TWITTER/X)

Game One of the Stanley Cup Final was highlighted by defense and Sergei Bobrovsky’s goaltending. He made 32 saves in a 3-0 shutout and suddenly, he looks like the Conn Smythe Trophy frontrunner. He shouldn’t be.

The Panthers celebrate their 3-0 victory in Game One, a lopsided contest where they never trailed. SOURCE: FLORIDA PANTHERS (TWITTER/X)

Aleksander Barkov was the one who stole Game One and he was remarkable from the opening puck drop. This is the series where everyone might start to take notice of how great the Florida Panthers' top-line center is.

Barkov Shut Down McDavid

Barkov’s line went against Connor McDavid’s throughout Game One and it stepped up and showed out. Her centers the top line and the daunting task of stopping the league’s best player didn’t phase him.  

He limited McDavid’s ability to make an impact in the middle of the ice. Barkov created turnovers and halted rushes to turn turnovers into instant offense and his defensive play helped give the Panthers the edge throughout the night. 

Barkov won the Selke Trophy and it’s clear he’s the best defensive center in the NHL. Game One proved it.

Barkov Set Up The Offense

Along with Barkov’s great play defensively, he stepped up on the offensive end of the ice as well. He assisted two of the Panthers’ goals including the first one with a great cross-ice pass to Carter Verhaeghe that gave the team a lead they’d never squander. 

It’s his two-way play that makes him the type of player who will win the Conn Smythe Trophy by the end of the series. Barkov is taking over on both ends of the ice and the fans are witnessing it firsthand and the Panthers start to take control of the Stanley Cup Final. 

How The Oilers Must Adapt

The Edmonton Oilers must allow McDavid to find more space to operate. That’s easier said than done when Barkov is constantly shadowing him. So, the big thing is for the offense to come from the point along with McDavid to help open up the ice, especially in the offensive zone.

Then there are the other forward lines which won’t be on the ice when Barkov is. Leon Draisaitl will lead the second line and he can find more open looks on the net, making it pivotal for him to find a few goals to give the Oilers a chance in this series. 

Then there’s the power play. They looked hapless in Game One and that can’t happen again. With more open ice, McDavid can win those battles against Barkov and ultimately allow the Oilers to come out on top in a series that will be a constant back and forth.

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