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The Stanley Cup Finals are upon us as the Florida Panthers and Vegas Golden Knights will battle for their first cup in franchise history.
These two teams have taken totally different paths to get to this stage. Florida was on the outside of the playoff picture for most of the season and snuck in as an eighth seed to draw the best team in NHL history in round one.
The first four games between the Panthers and Bruins went as expected, with Boston leading 3-1 and with the series shifting to Massachusetts for game five, it looked like the gentleman’s sweep was all but guaranteed.
But a Matthew Tkachuk overtime goal in game five spoiled a lot of bet slips, as the Panthers forced a game six back at home. Florida won a high-scoring affair in game six and the hockey world was absolutely shocked.
Florida took an early 2-0 lead in game seven, but Boston answered with three unanswered goals, and with a minute left, it looked like the Panthers would fall just short. With the extra attacker, Panthers fans had their prayers answered as a Brandon Montour shot from the point snuck in on surprise starter Jeremy Swayman.
Overtime was all that was separating the Panthers from the history books. Florida came out in the extra frame loose and with nothing to lose, Boston looked timid and were clearly feeling the pressure. Jeremy Swayman made some massive season-saving saves for the Bruins, but Carter Verhaeghe was finally able to beat the Bruins’ goalie and completed the massive upset. Florida won just their second playoff series since 1996.
Florida would then make easy work of both the Toronto Maple Leafs and Carolina Hurricanes to earn their first trip to the finals since 1996.
The Golden Knights had a totally different path in the 2022/2023 regular season, leading the Pacific Division almost wire to wire. The Knights drew the Winnipeg Jets in round one.
Lots of betters had Winnipeg winning the series despite the point discrepancy in the regular season. They believed Winnipeg goalie Connor Hellebuyck would be the difference maker.
In game one, the sleeper Jets bet looked good, as they beat the Knights handily 5-1. Vegas wasn’t fazed; they won the next four games to defeat the Jets in five and their game one loss to Winnipeg was the only time they’ve trailed all post-season.
Vegas was able to defeat both the Oilers and Stars in six games. Both series had their ups and downs but the Knights clearly controlled them.
Game one will take place on Saturday, this is the first time in NHL history that two teams led in points by American players will faceoff in the cup finals.
Here is a goalie prop I like for tonight’s game.
New series between cross conference teams are always hard to gauge. Florida has averaged 40 shots in game ones these playoffs, yes that’s skewed by game the marathon game one against the Hurricanes but the numbers still stand.
Hill has made over 29.5 saves in five of the six games against the Stars who ranked 15th during the regular season in shots per game. Florida was ranked first, so I expect them to test Hill a lot.