32 teams make up the National Hockey League, and we’re finally down to our final two. The Vegas Golden Knights are taking on the Florida Panthers. Some of the hockey writers here at Back Sports Page have compiled their predictions for how the final will go down.
Jacob Walters –
The Florida Panthers have an advantage in speed and finesse. It isn’t just Matthew Tkachuk that is a threat. You’re also looking at Sam Bennett, Carter Verhaeghe, and Aleksander Barkov. Florida plays a fast game that catches opposing teams off-guard. There’s also Sergei Bobrovsky, who’s playing out of his mind. He’s saving .935% of his shots in the playoffs, acting as a force for the Panthers. He has the ability to steal a series, especially with Florida’s offensive prowess.
The Vegas Golden Knights have an advantage in defense. Vegas knows how to backcheck and forecheck well and wear down their opponents. That’s done through various methods, from blocking shots to man-to-man play. Bruce Cassidy’s team holds an advantage in this regard, along with a coaching advantage. Cassidy knows how to make adjustments when things aren’t working out. He’s not afraid to mix up his lines to create mismatches and flush out defenses.
I can see a pathway to a Stanley Cup for the Panthers and that starts with Bobrovsky. If he’s on top of his game and Florida can speed past the Knights, it’s theirs to lose. However, Vegas has beaten teams like this before. People forget that Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl led a fast Edmonton team before bowing out to the Golden Knights. Also, Adin Hill has been a terrific story himself. Therefore, I’m going with the Golden Knights in 7.
Carlo Magno –
Series after series the Florida Panthers have proven me wrong and I am now convinced this team has what it takes. We have seen in years past that it takes a fantastic goalie + solid players to win the Stanley Cup. Well, the panthers have a red hot goalie + great players. From beating the President Trophy winners, the Leafs, and the sweeping the Hurricanes in the ECF this Panthers team is for real. During these playoffs the Panthers remind me of the Montreal Canadians in the 2021 playoffs, a solid team with a great goalie. Although Montreal weren’t able to complete the job I think the Panthers will. Vegas is a great team and although I do think they have a chance to win in 6 or 7, the Panthers have just shown they are on another level. Panthers in 6
Jack Titter –
The Stanley Cup Final is finally here with game one scheduled this Saturday in Las Vegas. Representing the West will be the Vegas Golden Knights. Ever since their run to a Finals appearance in their first season in existence, Vegas has remained in the tier of Stanley Cup or bust. But ever since that inaugural run Vegas has struggled to find that same playoff magic. Despite multiple runs to Conference Finals something just always went wrong for Vegas. They spent every offseason chasing the big splashes in free-agent signings and trade acquisitions. After missing the playoffs for the first time last year Vegas fell to more of a sleeper pick heading into the season. After the All-Star break Vegas began firing on all cylinders and finished first in the Western Conference. Thefter a disappointing game one against the Jets Vegas went on to win the next four straight. Their team depth really showed as they effectively shut down Edmonton’s dynamic offense, then crushed Dallas 6-0 in game six to punch their ticket to the Finals.
Vegas’ biggest attribute is easily their depth, they can roll four lines, and all three defense pairs and it feels like they’ll get contributions from anyone on the ice. This can also be applied to their goaltending. With Brossoit’s injury in round two, Adin Hill has provided the stable goaltending they need to get to win. The original misfits, William Karlsson, Reilly Smith, and Jonathan Marchessault continue to produce and provide key goals when needed. And of course, there’s Jack Eichel. There were a lot of questions about Eichel as he entered the playoffs for the first time in his career. Eichel has done nothing but prove all doubters wrong as he leads Vegas in points with 18. He’s also scored some big goals and made big defensive plays along the way. Vegas is built like a playoff team through and through and now has the chance to become one of the fastest expansion teams to win a championship in sports history.
The Florida Panthers emerged as the team representing the East. In the previous season, Tampa Bay swept the Panthers in the second round, adding them to the list of victims of the Presidents Trophy curse. The team’s challenges increased when they lost two key players, Jonathan Huberdeau and MacKenzie Weegar. However, they acquired Matthew Tkachuk in a trade, and his impact on the team surpassed all expectations. Despite Tkachuk’s contributions, the Panthers spent most of the season outside of a playoff spot, with their chances diminishing. However, they managed to secure a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs as the final team, thanks to Pittsburgh’s loss to Chicago and exceptional goaltending from rookie Alex Lyon. Fans anticipated a short-lived celebration as the Boston Bruins, regarded as the greatest regular season team in NHL history, became their round one opponents. Defying expectations, Florida rallied from a 3-1 series deficit and triumphed over Boston in game seven, led by Matthew Tkachuk and Sergei Bobrovsky. Moving on to the second round, the Panthers faced the Toronto Maple Leafs, who had just won their first playoff series since 2004. Riding the momentum from their previous series victory, the Panthers defeated the Leafs in five games. The Conference Final pitted Florida against the Hurricanes, a deep and formidable team expected to pose a significant challenge. However, the Panthers swept them aside in four games, securing their second Finals appearance in franchise history.
The two biggest stars in Florida are Tkachuk and Bobrovsky. Tkachuk has scored crucial goals for Florida, including a four-overtime game-winner and a series-clinching goal in the final seconds against Carolina. Since making his debut in the series against Boston, Bobrovsky has been almost unbeatable throughout the playoffs, boasting a .935 save percentage entering the Finals. Florida’s unrelenting forecheck puts their opponents on their heels, resulting in costly mistakes and contributing to the team’s success. Panthers in 6
These teams are very evenly matched bringing so much firepower both offensively and on the blue line. Florida seems to have that Cinderella run magic and the edge in goal with Bobrovsky. The only potential issue with Florida could be their long break between the Conference Final and Cup Finals. They’re a team of momentum and such a long break could make it difficult to get their wheels back for game one. However, the Panthers have been underdogs all playoffs and seem to play their best when the odds are against them. If they can bring their tenacity right from puck drop of game one, Vegas could have a tough time containing their opportunistic attack.