There will be a first-time champion in the NHL this year. The Vegas Golden Knights and the Florida Panthers will compete in the Stanley Cup Finals. Game 1 is Saturday, June 3 at T-Mobile Arena on the strip in Las Vegas, Nevada. Both teams are making their second appearance in the Cup Finals. Vegas was there in 2018, losing in five games to the Washington Capitals, while Florida made its only appearance in 1996 when they were swept by the Colorado Avalanche.
2023 Stanley Cup Final prediction
The Florida Panthers were the last team in the NHL to qualify for the playoffs and their reward was to face the record-setting Boston Bruins in the first round. Boston, who won 65 games during the season, took a 3-1 lead in their first-round series, but Florida rallied to win the final three games, including two on the road and shocked the Bruins in seven. From there the Panthers have cruised, knocking off the Toronto Maple Leafs in five and sweeping the Carolina Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference Final.
The Vegas Golden Knights won the Pacific Division and was the overall No. 1 in the Western Conference with 111 points. They enjoyed a fairly routine first-round series win over the Winnipeg Jets in five games. From there the Golden Knights dispatched of the high-powered Edmonton Oilers in six games and then took a 3-0 series lead against the Dallas Stars in the Western Conference Final before Dallas made a small surge to win Games 4 anf 5. Vegas, however, locked down the Stars in Game 6, winning 6-0 and advancing to the Cup Final.
Florida has followed a well-paved path to get to the Cup Final — strong goaltending, clutch goals and success in overtime. Sergei Bobrovsky has been the best player in the postseason, going 11-2 with a .935 save percentage. He was 4-0 with a .966 save percentage and a shutout in the Eastern Conference Finals, which could suggest he’s getting better. The Panthers are a ridiculous 9-1 in one-goal games in this postseason and 7-0 in overtime. They have just continuously found ways to win. Matthew Tkachuk, who was acquired in a major offseason trade from the Calgary Flames, has four game winners and three of them in overtime, but he’s not the only one. Sam Bennett, Carter Verhaeghe and Aleksander Barkov have all proven to be clutch performers this playoff.
Vegas has had a little more breathing room in their series, winning eight games by two goals or more and still managing to go 4-1 in overtime, proving they can win close ones as well. Goaltending has been an adventure for the Golden Knights ever since Logan Thompson was injured during the second half of the season. They have went with Jonathan Quick for a while and Laurent Brossoit made a few starts in the playoffs before getting hurt. Right now Vegas has settled in Adin Hill, who is 7-3 with a .937 save percentage and two shutouts in 11 playoff games. Thompson is healthy again and is a backup that played in the All-Star Game this year. It’s a deep squad in Vegas with six players (Jack Eichel, Jonathan Marchessault, Mark Stone, Ivan Barbashev, William Karlsson and Chandler Stephenson) all with at least six goals and 14 points in the playoffs.
Who will win?
Vegas is the deeper stronger team across the board. Florida has the better goaltender and the clutch performer. This is going to be a tight series. The Panthers have been amazing in the tight games, especially in overtime, and one can wonder when the law of averages will catch up to them. This series is much like last year’s Cup Final where the Tampa Bay Lightning had the better goalie and the guy getting the clutch goals, but the Avalanche were deeper and stronger, eventually wearing down the Lightning. Expect a similar result this year.
Prediction: Golden Knights in six games.