Golden knights vs panthers
Photo Credit: John Locher/AP

New FSM Preview: 2023 Stanley Cup Finals – Golden Knights vs Panthers

Franchise Sports Media

Vegas Golden Knights (12-5) vs Florida Panthers  (12-4)

 

The Vegas Golden Knights and Florida Panthers meet in the Stanley Cup Final, looking to claim their first championship. 

New FSM Preview: 2023 Stanley Cup Finals – Golden Knights vs Panthers

Golden Knights vs Panthers Jonathan Marchessault
Photo Credit: Jason Franson/AP

The road to the Stanley Cup Final for both teams was lengthy, with some season-changing twists and turns. But the Vegas Golden Knights and Florida Panthers have proved all the critics wrong and now have a chance to make history by winning their first-ever Stanley Cup

The Vegas Golden Knights entered the league in 2017, and Vegas owner Bill Foley rolled the dice for his franchise by acquiring some great players in that year’s expansion draft. Jonathan Marchessault, William Karlsson, and Reilly Smith have been with the team since Vegas‘ first inaugural season. They made the Cup Final in 2018 but fell short to the Washington Capitals.

But ownership decisions throughout the past couple of years have been seen as questionable by the fanbase and pundits alike. Letting go of their star goalie Marc Andre Fluery was the move that, in essence, started the madness, but Vegas has got the luck of the draw getting six draft picks in the first round since that first year. Outside of the draft, the Golden Knights have acquired vital players like Jack Eichel and Mark Stone, who have played better than most expected for the team.

But despite getting some key blockbuster trades, injuries have been the Achilles heel for Vegas, which has interfered with their salary cap on multiple occasions. Even getting Jack Eichel last season seemed a questionable decision. Eichel had just recently had neck surgery which led to the Buffalo Sabres moving him in the first place. Last season when Vegas acquired Eichel, they missed the playoffs, and the acquisition was debated all over again since they paid such a large amount that would threaten their cap balance for a player who had never won a championship.

Injuries going into this season was the primary cause of concern for Vegas, especially in the goaltender position. Robin Lehner was the starting goaltender at first but needed an off-season hip surgery that sidelined him for the whole season. With Lehner out, Logan Thompson came in and held the starting job tremendously with a .915 save percentage earning him a spot on the All-Star team for the Western Conference.

 

Golden Knights vs Panthers Aiden Hill
Photo Credit: John Locher/AP

But a lower-body injury towards the season put Thompson on the shelf bringing in backup Laurent Brossoit from the AHL; Brossoit was slated as the starting goalie for the playoffs but was injured during the second-round matchup against Edmonton Oilers. Now, Adin Hill has done a great job in the net and must sustain that level of play going into their Cup Final matchup.

After all the doubtful trades and injuries this season, Vegas won the Pacific division by passing through the Winnipeg Jets, Edmonton Oilers, and Dallas Stars in the playoffs. Now the Vegas Golden Knights are back in the Stanley Cup Final, and this time they are determined to bring Lord Stanley’s Cup to Sin City.

The Florida Panthers skated on thin ice all regular season and especially during the last two weeks. The Panthers acquired Matthew Tkachuck from the Calgary Flames yet still struggled in the first half of the season. They found a way to improve during the second half. The chances of the Panthers even making the playoffs was a long shot. With only eight games left, they trailed the Pittsburgh Penguins by three points for the final eighth-place playoff spot.

Florida was without Sam Bennett, and starting goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky was out due to a Non-Covid illness. But despite the distractions, backup goalie Alex Lyons helped the Panthers to pull through during the late stretch earning a point with Pittsburgh losing to the Chicago Blackhawks, which helped the Panthers clinch their playoff spot.

Going through the playoffs was a stretch of its own for the Panthers. All of their playoff opponents were favored to win. Defeating the highly favored Boston Bruins in a Game 7 in overtime, defeating the Toronto Maple Leafs in the second round, then sweeping the Carolina Hurricanes in four games in the Eastern Conference Final.

The Panthers are in the Stanley Cup Final for the second time, and this Cinderella run is similar to their run in 1996, the last time the Panthers were in the Cup Final.

2023 Stanley Cup Finals – Golden Knights vs Panthers preview

Both teams want the Stanley Cup, but both need certain advantages to win it all.

2023 Stanley Cup Finals Preview

Golden Knights vs Panthers Jack Eichel
Photo Credit: John Locher/AP

The Vegas Golden Knights have been superior upfront throughout the season, especially during their playoff run.

Jack Eichel has led the offense in his first playoff run and has become a great two-way player. Jonathan Marchessault currently has nine goals in the playoffs, and Ivan Barbashev, who Vegas acquired at the trade deadline, has also become a standout.

The most significant contributor has been William Karlsson. He has been a difference maker leading the team with ten goals in the playoffs which is a franchise record. The fourth line of William Carrier, Keegan Kolesar, and Nicolas Roy has also been a great help to Vegas. Whenever the trio is together, they have outshot opponents  20-16, out-chanced them 14-12, and outscored them 3-1 at 5-on-5.

Vegas will need all those attributes to win the series, but Special Teams is another crucial component that will help them. The Golden Knights need to maintain their penalty kill unit against the Panthers’ power play unit that was perfect in the last round. Vegas going into the West Final against the Dallas Stars was less successful than their opponent.

 

Golden Knights vs PanthersMark Stone
Photo Credit: Gareth Patterson/AP

Vegas may hold an edge in other areas regarding goal average, but the Golden Knights must stay out of penalty trouble throughout the series.

The Florida Panthers have been excellent during their playoff run with the help of Matthew Tkachuk, who so far in the playoffs has scored three game-winning goals. All three were in the East Final, including the series clincher with seconds left in Game 4 against Carolina. Tkachuck’s presence in the Cup Final will definitely help the Panther’s chances.

Another enormous contribution for the Panthers has been their goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky who may be a Conn Smythe finalist because he has so far saved nearly 20 goals which is far above any other starter. Bobrovsky has been a big difference in the net; the Panthers have the higher advantage in the goaltending column.

Another aspect the Panthers need to use in the series is their forechecking; the Panthers have been a very physical team throughout the playoffs so far and will need it to stop the fast offense of Vegas. Sam Bennett and Aleksander Barkov are the main ones leading the charge in their forechecking.

Two teams are in their second Stanley Cup Final appearance with hopes to win their first. But only one team can lift the Cup. Something has to give in this matchup.

The 2023 Stanley Cup Finals starts Saturday with the Vegas Golden Knights taking on the Florida Panthers

On Saturday, the Golden Knights will play the Florida Panthers in Game One of the Stanley Cup Final at T-Mobile Arena. The puck drop is at 5:00 PM. The game can be seen on AT&T SportsNet (channel 313 on Cox Cable) and TNT (channel 18 on Cox cable) or heard on 98.9 FM, FOX Sports Las Vegas 1340 AM.

 

– Jonathan Randall – Franchise Sports Media

Follow Jonathan on Twitter @JonnyQuest_91 

and on Instagram @jonny._91  

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