The NHL Playoffs started with 16 teams and now, only two remain. No one had the Florida Panthers making it out of the first round, let alone to the Stanley Cup Final, but here they are. They have played some excellent hockey and deserve to be here. As for the Las Vegas Golden Knights, it’s the second time in franchise history that they have made it to the finals, but unlike last time, they are looking to come home with the big prize. People may claim that the NHL isn’t a fan of two small market teams making it all the way, but to be honest, this series has the potential to go down as one of the best in history. As always, you can send your love/hate tweets to me on Twitter @fuzzychris91.
Las Vegas Golden Knights Vs. Florida Panthers
Coming into this series, the Golden Knights are favorites to win the series. They were able to make quick work of the Winnipeg Jets, they contained Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl and made Jake Oettinger look like Martin Jones. For a team that played five different goalies during the regular season, they showed that a good goalie can excel in a strong, defensive system.
For Florida, it’s been one of the craziest runs we’ve seen in a long time. They came back to beat the Boston Bruins after being down 3-1 in the series, they handed Toronto another series loss and made quick work of the Carolina Hurricanes. Matthew Tkachuk has been putting on a performance since the start of the NHL Playoffs and is putting on a performance that won’t soon be forgotten. So, knowing all this, who’s going to win the Stanley Cup?
The Panthers haven’t played meaningful hockey in over ten days, but it would be foolish to think that the extra rest will harm them. They’ve heard every excuse as to why they shouldn’t win and look where that’s got them. They are a physical team that plays very well defensively. They won’t outscore their opponent by a ton, but rather, they play good team defense and wait for their chances to come.
For Vegas, they are the favorites in this series and that could actually play against them. As good as Adin Hill has been since taking over the starting job, we’ve seen him let in some soft goals. Vegas knows that they are the better team and they could become frustrated if they don’t score early on. They also come into the finals with a penalty kill operating at 63%, while the Panthers have the sixth-best power play at 27.9%. Vegas has been able to stay disciplined and not take bad penalties, but if they don’t continue to do that, Florida will capitalize on their chances.
The obvious wild card in this series is Sergei Bobrovsky. Everyone is waiting for him to regress, and to be honest, he’s due to come back down to earth slightly, but that doesn’t mean he’s going to be horrible. He is playing the best hockey of his career and is clearly the best goalie in this series. The Panthers will only go as far as he can carry them, but there’s no doubt that he can steal a game or two for his team.
Florida will need to go into Vegas and win a couple of games if they want any chances of winning this series. We saw them pull off two clutch wins on the road against Carolina and they need to be just as good in this series. They don’t need to win both games on the road, but coming back to Florida with a road win will be key. It’s also important to note that even if they don’t win one of the first two games, they can still come back and win the series. We can’t count this team out at any point, but they showed the world that they are capable of doing the impossible. They just feel destined to win it all right now, so that’s where I’ll be laying my hard-earned money.
Prediction: Florida Panthers in Six Games