Goalies: The Panthers have Bobrovsky and he is hot right now. He is not letting anything by him and he has been Florida’s savior in the playoffs, shutting down Boston, Toronto, and Carolina. He has seemingly put all of his playoff demons behind him.
Vegas is rotating a duo of Adin Hill and Laurent Brossoit. Hill’s stats are a little better than Brossoit’s, but it hasn’t really seemed to matter. Hill will probably get the nod to start as he’s been playing more.
Vegas has been getting by on goalie rotations all season. No reason to see that changing now, but Bob has been a brick wall as of late. EDGE: Florida
Tkachuk is a MVP finalist (it’ll go to McDavid) and leads the Panthers with 21 points. Behind him are Carter Verhaeghe (15 points) Aleksander Barkov (14 points), Sam Reinhart (11 points) and Sam Bennett (11 points). This team is young, fast, and furious and they keep coming at you in waves.
Eichel leads Vegas with 18 points. But behind him are a well established troop of game changers. Jonathan Marchessault (17 points), Ivan Barbashev (15 points), Mark Stone (15 points), William Karlsson (14 points), Chandler Stephenson (14 points), and Reilly Smith (11 points) have all been putting up big number sand coming up in big moments.
Florida is more dynamic with their scoring, but a lot of it rests on what Tkachuk is doing. Vegas has better depth up front. They also don’t give up and force you to make mistakes. SLIGHT EDGE: Vegas
The Panthers have some solid defenders. Radko Gudas is big and brutish without being reckless. Brandon Montour is their scoring threat on defense while Aaron Ekblad and Gustav Forsling and good defensive minded blueliners.
The Golden Knights defense are led by former Stanley Cup winner Alex Pietrangelo. Other steady defenders include Shea Theodore, Brayden McNabb, Zach Whitecloud, Nicolas Hague, and Alec Martinez.
Both teams have all-star level defenders. Both teams are here in part because of their defense. However, Florida tends to give up more shots. The stats are skewed after Florida’s 4OT thriller against Carolina, but in most games, Bobrovsky is facing 30+ shots a night. All it will take is a bad night and his playoff problems may come back. EDGE: Vegas
Paul Maurice has been coaching for a long time. He took the Carolina Hurricanes to their first Stanley Cup appearance in 2002 where they fell, as most teams did, to the Detroit Red Wings. He is one of the winningest coaches of all time with 817 career victories. This is his first season in Florida and he was brought in, after serving in Winnipeg, to help get this team over the hump.
Vegas is coached by Bruce Cassidy. This is his first year in Nevada after previously coaching the Bruins for the last six years. During one of those seasons, he captained the Bruins to a Stanley Cup run, but fell in seven games to the St. Louis Blues. He’s got the experience and pedigree to help the team stay steady.
You are talking about two of the best hockey minds in the NHL. Both have experience and both know how to get the best out of their guys. EDGE: Even
Florida’s power play is stronger at 27.9% while Vegas is at 18.5%. Both teams have struggled on the penalty kill as Florida is at 71.2% and Vegas is at 63%. However, these need to be taken with a grain of salt. Carolina, the league’s top penalty killing team, also had an 84.1% rate on the penalty kill while Edmonton scored most of their goals on the power play with a rate of 46.2%.
Both teams have shown a remarkable ability to come through in overtime. Both teams are leaning on their stars to come through when it needs. Both teams have a combo of veterans and young players.
If there is any advantage here, Florida has been playing super strong against super long odds. They were down three games to one against Boston and rebounded to win the series. They’ve been through a lot of adversity and their confidence is through the roof. That is hard to turn off. SLIGHT EDGE: Florida
Vegas is a tough team to crack and they don’t shake easily. In a normal year, I’d say that they have the advantage. After all, they had the fourth best record this season behind Boston, Carolina, and New Jersey. They were the top seed in the West.
However, none of that impresses Florida. They’ve been the underdog in every season and have been topping everyone they encounter. Florida in Six