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NHL Power Rankings: The Stanley Cup Is Coming Home to One of These Teams


The Stanley Cup Final heads to South Florida with the Vegas Golden Knights holding a 2-0 series lead over the Florida Panthers. 

Panthers’ goaltender Sergei “Bob” Bobrovsky has suffered a complete meltdown after putting the team on his back through the first three rounds of the playoffs, allowing 82.6 percent of shots he’s faced to score through the first two games of the championship series.

A two-time Vezina Trophy winner as the league’s best goaltender, the Panthers signed Bobrovsky in 2019 in the hopes that he could put them over the top by locking it down in the net.

Bob struggled mightily to begin his career with the Panthers, with chatter swirling over the past two offseasons that the team might try to move on from his lofty contract, worried that his play hindered an otherwise spectacular roster—one good enough to win the President’s Trophy with the best record in the league during the 2021-22 campaign. 

Those whispers became even louder as he struggled to begin the 2022-23 campaign, and after a lengthy illness kept Bob out for the final few weeks of the season, backup goalie Alex Lyon (who led the team on a winning streak to capture the final Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference) got the nod in net to begin the playoffs.

With the Panthers facing a 2-1 series deficit against the Boston Bruins, who shattered records on the way to the best regular season record in NHL history, they turned back to Bob to keep their season alive. Bob compiled a 10-2 record on the way to the Stanley Cup Final, saving 93.5 percent of the shots he faced and penciling himself in as a Conn Smythe Trophy winner as playoff MVP should the Panthers manage to come back in the series. 

Needing to win four of their next five games to claim their first championship in franchise history, the Panthers are heavy underdogs, listed at or around +400, to come back and win the series (compared to the Golden Knights, in the driver’s seat and listed around -550). However, seasoned bettors know that sports betting is as diverse as the game, with odds and sportsbook promos varying significantly across different platforms. To maximize the chances of winning big, bettors are advised to carefully assess the odds offered and explore enticing promotions before placing their wagers. 

Here’s a look at what’s happened so far in the series and whether the Panthers have a chance of coming back to win it all.

Uphill Battle for the Panthers

The good news for the Panthers and their fans is that they’ve been in this situation before. Storming back from a 3-1 series deficit against the best team in league history is no easy feat. Still, it’s hard to feel confident when the Golden Knights are in the driver's seat and look dominant, outscoring Florida by eight goals across the first two games. 

Florida has had the lead or managed to tie it up after an early deficit in each of the first two games of the series: shaky defense and goaltending have prevented them from holding on to it, though. 

Bobrovsky is a perfect example of the streaky play of goaltenders, perhaps even the poster child for it, given the dizzying highs and lows of his professional career. 

He could put it together at any time, but he could also look like an AHL goaltender when the games matter most. 

Vegas' Dominance and Versatility

Vegas, on the other hand, has shown its ability to win in a variety of ways, even if the final score looks convincing. They’re hanging tight while the game is close long enough to figure things out and blow past Florida, as they did in Game 1, playing to a 2-2 tie through two periods (including a sequence where Florida scored the tying goal in the waning seconds of the period) before leaping away with three goals in the third. 

Once they get in a rhythm, they’re off to the races, but it’ll be fascinating to see how they respond if they’re down late on the road.

The Golden Knights have managed to take Florida agitator Matthew Tkachuk out of the game, as he’s racked up 30 penalty minutes from game misconduct penalties in just two games: rather than disrupting Vegas with his skill (both on the ice and as a trash talker) Tkachuk’s strategy is backfiring. 

Panthers’ old friend Jonathan Marchessault (who the team let walk to Vegas during the 2017 expansion draft) has three goals in the series in a cruel twist of irony. 

Florida had a ten-day layoff going into Game 1, which could account for the once red-hot Bobrovsky and Tkachuk cooling off. Through two games, though, Vegas simply looks like the better team (and it isn’t particularly close).

This series won’t last much longer if Florida can’t rekindle some of that early magic. 

Source: limnews

All sports articles on 2023-06-07

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