. . This 2023 NHL postseason has been anything but predictable so far. There has been a very even balance of favorites and underdogs winning series, sweeps and game 7s, close games and blowouts, etc.
Will the chaos continue or will this series play out more predictably? Let’s break down each facet of the game and see which team should have the advantage.
High Power Vegas Golden Knights Offense
Vegas’s offense is loaded and has been firing on all cylinders for three rounds of the postseason now. They hold the advantage here due to a deep offensive attack vs. the Panthers’ Matthew Tkachuk-dominated offense. The Knights are averaging 3.65 goals per game in the playoffs vs. the Panthers’ 3.13. Vegas has six players with 14 or more points in the postseason so far vs. Florida’s three. Tkachuk has been the best offensive player on either side in this postseason with 21 points thus far, but Vegas just features more threats and a more menacing attack overall, giving them the edge.
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Florida Panthers Rely on Defense
These two defenses have been very comparable thus far in the playoffs. Florida has allowed 2.69 goals per game while Vegas has the slight edge with 2.65. That being said, Florida has locked in as of late and has better defensive momentum heading into this series. In the conference final round, Florida allowed just 1.5 goals per game as opposed to Vegas’s two. Both defenses have been very impressive throughout the playoffs and in the most recent round, but Florida has a slight edge in this category at the moment.
Florida Riding Hot Goalie
An instrumental part of Florida’s defensive success has been the goaltender play of Sergei Bobrovsky. The current Stanley Cup Finals MVP favorite (+200) has been dominant, especially lately, and stood tall in four consecutive one-goal victories last round to help Florida secure the East.
Bobrovsky has been successful in the NHL for many years and that veteran presence goes a long way this deep into the playoffs, especially at a crucial position like goaltender. While Adin Hill of the Golden Knights has also put together a strong postseason, Bobrovsky and the Panthers have the clear advantage here.
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Coaches Have Experience, no Titles
Both head coaches have had solid careers but have been unable to secure a championship. Panthers Head Coach Paul Maurice has been a head coach in the NHL for much longer and has been to more postseasons. He made it to one Stanley Cup Final with the Carolina Hurricanes back in 2002 but couldn’t get the job done. Golden Knights Head Coach Bruce Cassidy has been to the postseason in almost every season he has coached in the NHL. He also has been through one Stanley Cup Final loss, his with the Boston Bruins in 2019. Both coaches have had success in the postseason. Neither, however, have proven that they can win a title until this year. For now, this category remains a push.
Prediction: Florida Panthers in 7
As the old saying goes, defense wins championships. The Panthers have been rolling off of strong defensive performances. They also feature one of the league’s top goaltenders in Sergei Bobrovsky. There is something magical about the run they’ve put together after barely qualifying for the postseason at all. They seem to be getting better as the playoffs go on. Bobrovsky and Tkachuk will be the two best players on the ice in this series. Between that and a strong defensive unit, I expect Florida to complete the Cinderella run and win the first Stanley Cup title in franchise history.
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