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Rare Domination in the Conference Finals

Photo courtesy @FlaPanthers

After going twelve series without a sweep in the NHL playoffs, we’ve got a legitimate chance to see two in the Conference Finals for the first time in 31 years. How have we gotten here? Let’s get into it.  

Panthers vs Hurricanes

This series has been extremely close, but the Panthers find themselves looking to close it out at home in just four games. For that, they have Sergei Bobrovsky to thank. The former Vezina winner has been tremendous for Florida since getting the net back from Alex Lyon, and his best series has been this one.  

With two overtime losses in Carolina and a 1-0 loss in Game 3, it’s not like the Hurricanes are playing terrible hockey and letting Florida run away with the series. They’ve continued to play to their strength defensively but just cannot seem to solve Bob. In the three games played, Carolina has just one even-strength goal, scored by defenseman Jalen Chatfield. Missing Andrei Svechnikov and Max Pacioretty certainly plays a role in these struggles, but the Canes need someone in the lineup to step up tonight just to get back home for Game 5.  

For Florida, it’s just a matter of keeping the pedal down. They’ve played the role of the underdog as well as you can play it in these playoffs because they’re a better team with a chip on their shoulders. If they lose that for even a period or two tonight, they may find themselves back in Carolina. However, the Panthers are hungry. With how they’ve played since Game 5 in Boston, I think there’s almost no way they come out flat in any game for the remainder of the postseason. They may get beat, but they won’t make it easy.  

Golden Knights vs Stars

On the other side of the bracket, we’ve got the Golden Knights putting on a playoff masterclass right now. The team hasn’t been down in a series since Game 1 of the first round, and they’re now up three games on a very solid and experienced Dallas Stars team. 

Like the series in the East, this Western Conference Finals has been much closer than the 3-0 lead would suggest. As Florida won two overtime games on the road to open their series, the Golden Knights were victorious in two overtime games at home to open this one. However, the wheels fell off for Dallas in Game 3 as the Knights started hot and never looked back, winning 4-0. Although the crease was a question mark at the beginning of the playoffs, Adin Hill has outplayed Jake Oettinger to this point, cementing his spot as the starter with the 34-save shutout in Game 3.  

With Vegas on a mission and the Stars playing without captain Jamie Benn in Game 4 due to a suspension, it really looks like the Golden Knights will be in the Stanley Cup Finals for the second time in six years. I just can’t see the Stars winning two straight to send it back to Texas for Game 6. They may win one at home, but to really make this series interesting again will be a very tall task against the Golden Knights. Even their own fans might be losing faith.

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