So far, these playoffs, we’ve underestimated the Florida Panther’s bite and the Vegas Golden Knight’s spirit. But here we are, with two teams in the Stanley Cup finals we didn’t have on our radar when we made our OG pre-playoff predictions. That’s pretty wild.
NHL playoffs are a different animal; a team gets hot, a goalie becomes a fortified wall, and all of a sudden, you’re knocking on the door of greatness. So which one of these two teams will sip a variety of alcoholic beverages from Lord Stanley’s Mug?
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Florida Panthers vs. Las Vegas Golden Knights
We already gave our Three Keys to the Stanley Cup Finals preview, but let’s cut deeper into this matchup. The Golden Knights will nab the home-ice advantage in this series, so that’s probably why they’re the slight favourites in most bookies’ eyes. Outside of that, this very much looks like a coin flip of a series.
The Knights’ Offensive Factor
The Knights can score a lot of goals, and they get production from top to bottom. They have an offensive arsenal of six different six-goal scorers and seven different 10-point scorers to punish you no matter what line jumps over the boards. That kind of output is because they shoot the puck a lot and come into this series sporting a 12.2 shooting percentage which is tops in the playoffs. It’s why the Knights have scored 62 playoff goals to Florida’s 50, giving them 3.65 goals per game.
But Vegas hasn’t faced The Bob.
The Bobrovsky Factor
To their credit, the Golden Knights have made Western playoff goalies look rather pedestrian at times, including the talented Jake Oettinger, who couldn’t stop the Golden Knight’s swarm and score tactics. It’s a different game, though, when Bobrovsky is patrolling the crease. The Panthers could lose the Finals, and Bob could easily still win the Conn Smyth for playoff MVP; that’s how unreal he’s been.
Since being thrown into game 3 of the Boston series and his team being outshot throughout the playoffs, the two-time Vezina trophy winner has won 11 of 13 starts, with a 935 SV% and 2.21 goals per game. Clearly, this 34-year-old goalie with a chip on his shoulder could be nightmare fuel for Las Vegas. He has fully shed the reputation of shrinking in the playoffs.
The Panthers can score goals and timely goals at that, but their output has been fairly top-heavy. The team has mostly relied on Barkov, Reinhart, Tkachuk, and Verhaeghe for scoring. To beat Vegas, they’re going to need others to step up, like Sam Bennett or even Brandon Montour from the back.
That said, the Knights will need to avoid the penalty box because a lot of the Cat’s offense has come on the powerplay, converting at an impressive 27.9 percent. Meanwhile, Vegas has only killed 62.2 percent of their penalties, one of the worst rates in the playoffs. This is an x-factor to be very aware of, especially if this series gets heated fast.
It’s really hard to measure momentum, and there is no stat that we can rely on for belief in one’s self and team confidence where they feel they could beat anyone. Because if there were, the numbers for Florida would be off the charts. Las Vegas is the better team on paper, but so were Boston, Toronto, and Carolina.
The question is, how long can Bobrovsky continue this run? Will we start to see the cracks when Vegas throws everything at him? I’m going with the offensive output of the Vegas Golden Knights over the heart and soul of Florida.
Prediction: Vegas Golden Knights in 6 games
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