Defense Wins Championships – But Offense Wins MVP?

The Panthers Win…and So Does McDavid?

Monday night’s Stanley Cup Final Game 7 between the Edmonton Oilers and Florida Panthers was certainly…something.

Exciting? Sure. It was a close Game 7 that was decided by one goal. But honestly, I feel that a lot of the excitement was the anticipation leading up to the game, and maybe not the game so much.

Did the game have exciting moments? Sure, that mad scramble in front of the Panthers’ crease, where both Connor McDavid and Zach Hyman were unable to tie the game, was intense. So was the breakaway goal scored by Oilers center Mattias Janmark. The game had its moments for sure. 

But the bottom line is that this was a game that was won by one goal because the Panthers played their suffocating style of defense, knowing that they could win the game 2-1 but not 8-7. 

And the saying goes, offense wins games, but defense wins championships.

Apparently, offense wins the MVP award, too.

I’m still a little perplexed as to why Connor McDavid won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the Playoffs MVP. Yes, it was for his performance during the entire 2024 postseason, where he set a record for 34 assists and was second only to Wayne Gretzky for most points in a single postseason. 

Every now and then, the player on the losing team does win the MVP award, because they pretty much dragged their team to the Final – and sometimes single-handedly kept their team in a series that should have been long over.

Just as McDavid did when he scored four points in Game 4 and another four points in Game 5, prolonging a series that the Panthers looked like they were going to sweep. But then McDavid was held off the scoresheet in Games 6 and 7. 

Helping McDavid’s case as to why he won the Smythe is that not one Panthers player – save for maybe goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky – was a standout on their team. Yes, Aleksander Barkov and Matthew Tkachuk scored 22 points in 24 games, and Carter Verhage netted 11 goals. Nearly every player on the Panthers team contributed. 

As for Bobrovsky, he certainly had good stats, but maybe not good enough to win MVP. Statistically, he was 1st with two postseason shutouts, including one against Edmonton in Game 1. Bobrovsky was 4th with a 2.32 goals-against average and 6th with a .906 save percentage.

Most importantly, Bobrovsky had 16 wins – which is exactly how many wins it takes to win the Stanley Cup. No Bobrovsky, no Cup.

Before you point out that there are better goalies in the league, those better goalies were not playing for the Stanley Cup. Some nights, Bobrovsky was fantastic. And some nights he wasn’t. 

The same goes for McDavid. He was fantastic up until when it really counted.

All that being said, I still hoped to see McDavid hoist the Cup. If the Oilers’ lineup remains unchanged – but with an upgrade in net – then McDavid should win the Cup next year…and maybe a few after that. 

Note: This article is an updated version of an editorial that originally appeared in Volume 2 – Issue 26 of the Puck Junk Newsletter. For stories like these, plus news and updates about hockey cards and collectibles, subscribe to the newsletter here.

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Author: Sal Barry

Sal Barry is the editor and webmaster of Puck Junk. He is a freelance hockey writer, college professor and terrible hockey player. Follow him on Twitter @puckjunk

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