The Florida Panthers have advanced to the Stanley Cup Final for the second time in team history, joining their 1996 squad that made a Cinderella run in the franchise’s third season of existence before losing to the Colorado Avalanche in a four-game sweep.
Florida Panthers in the Stanley Cup Final
The 1996 Florida Panthers were truly a team of chance with preseason odds of +6000 to win a Stanley Cup. Led by veteran goaltender John Vanbeisbrouck, the Panthers finished fourth in the Eastern Conference with 92 points. They went on to dispatch the Boston Bruins in five games in the conference quarterfinals. Florida fells behind 2-1 in its Conference semifinal series against the Philadelphia Flyers but ran off three straight wins — two in overtime — to win the series in six games. In the Eastern Conference Finals, the Panthers trailed 3-2 in the series, but Rob Niedermayer scored the game-winner in Game 6 and Vanbiesbrouck made 39 saves in Game 7 for a 3-1 win, a series win and an improbable trip to the Cup Finals. The Colorado Avalanche, led by Patrick Roy, Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg, Claude Lemieux, and others, proved to be too much for the Panthers, but Game 4 was an amazing battle of goalies, with the Avalanche winning 1-0 in three overtimes. Roy made 63 saves and was named the Conn Smythe winner while Vanbiesbrouck made 55 saves before giving up the Cup-winner to Uwe Krupp.
That was the Panthers' only trip to the Cup Finals.
Despite needing the final week of the season to secure a playoff spot, the Panthers have been rolling ever since knocking off the 65-win Bruins in the first round. Florida has played dominant hockey in stretches against the Toronto Maple Leafs and Carolina Hurricanes, but when they haven’t it’s been Sergei Bobrovsky there to clean things up. Florida is +125 to win the Cup at DraftKings Sportsbook and in many ways, they feel like a team of destiny.