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With a lopsided victory in Game 6 on Monday night, the Vegas Golden Knights officially cemented the 2023 Stanley Cup final matchup. Starting on Saturday, June 3, the Golden Knights will battle the Eastern Conference-champion Florida Panthers in a best-of-seven series, with both seeking their first-ever Cup wins.
Vegas finished with the better regular-season record and thus will have home-ice advantage in the series, hosting Games 1 and 2, and, if necessary, 5 and 7.
All factors considered, oddsmakers slightly favor the Golden Knights to win their first Stanley Cup in just their sixth season in existence.
Golden Knights vs. Panthers Series Odds
|Vegas Golden Knights||-135||TBD|
The Golden Knights enter the Stanley Cup finals as -135 betting favorites with the underdog Panthers coming back at +105.
The Panthers Are Scorching
Florida’s postseason run got off to a supremely rocky start. Matched up against the record-setting Boston Bruins – who set a new high for regular-season points with 135 – the underdog Panthers found themselves in a 3-1 deficit with the series shifting back to Boston. After finding a way to win Game 5 in OT, Florida faced third-period deficits in both Games 6 and 7.
The series finale saw Boston leading 3-2 with a minute to play before Brandon Montour gave the Panthers’ season new life.
Carter Verhaeghe would play the role of overtime hero, setting up a second-round series with the Toronto Maple Leafs which the Panthers dominated.
After dusting aside the Leafs in just five games, Florida one-upped itself in the Eastern Conference final, despite being situated as underdogs for the third-straight series. The Panthers won four one-goal games to sweep the Carolina Hurricanes and book their second-ever berth in the Stanley Cup final.
Florida’s only other Eastern Conference title came in 1996, when they had the unfortunate luck of going up against Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg, and the powerhouse Colorado Avalanche in the Stanley Cup final. The Panthers lost in a four-game sweep.
Much-hyped offseason acquisition Matthew Tkachuk leads the Panthers in both goals (nine) and assists (12) in the postseason, and sits second in the NHL playoffs in scoring with 21 points, trailing only the Dallas Stars’ Roope Hintz (24). Sam Reinhart (7), Brandon Montour (6), and Verhaeghe (6) round out the top-four Florida goal scorers, while captain Aleksander Barkov has chipped in with four goals and ten assists.
Golden Knights vs. Panthers Schedule
|Game 1||Vegas||Saturday, June 3 (8:00 p.m. ET)|
|Game 2||Vegas||Monday, June 5 (8:00 p.m. ET)|
|Game 3||Florida||Thursday, June 8 (8:00 p.m. ET)|
|Game 4||Florida||Saturday, June 10 (8:00 p.m. ET)|
|Game 5||Vegas||Tuesday, June 13(8:00 p.m. ET)|
|Game 6||Florida||Friday, June 16 (8:00 p.m. ET)|
|Game 7||Vegas||Tuesday, June 19 (8:00 p.m. ET)|
Vegas Hasn’t Been Pushed Past Game 6
The Golden Knights haven’t necessarily been dominant from a game-to-game perspective – recording an absurd number of comeback victories in the playoffs – but their 2023 playoff resume as a whole is wildly impressive. Since Vegas dropped Game 1 to the Winnipeg Jets in round one, they have not faced a deficit in a series.
After winning the next four to eliminate the Jets, the Knights took down Connor McDavid’s slightly-favored Oilers in round two, 4-2, and then defeated the Dallas Stars by the same score in the West finals.
Vegas finished the regular season with the best record in the Western Conference and has enjoyed home-ice advantage in all three series to date. They are 6-3 at home so far in the playoffs.
Vegas’ biggest gun up front has been phenomenal in the postseason: much-maligned Jack Eichel led the team with 18 points in just 16 games heading into Game 6 against Dallas. But it’s their depth that has proved the difference. Jonathan Marchessault, Chandler Stephenson, and William Karlsson were all tied for the team lead with eight goals (again, prior to Game 6), while six total Vegas players have at least six goals in the playoffs.
2023 NHL Playoff Results
|Vegas Golden Knights||Florida Panthers|
|Round 1||Def. Winnipeg Jets (4-1)||Def. Boston Bruins (4-3)|
|Round 2||Def. Edmonton Oilers (4-2)||Def. Toronto Maple Leafs (4-1)|
|Round 3||Def. Dallas Stars (4-2)||Def. Carolina Hurricanes (4-0)|
Florida and Vegas met twice in the regular season with each team winning on home ice. The Golden Knights took a 4-2 decision in Vegas on January 12, while the Panthers returned the favor with a 2-1 win in Miami on March 7.
Both teams also held serve at home in the 2021-22 season.
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