The 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs have reached its final stage. We have two teams remaining who will battle it out over the next four to seven games for the right to lift the Stanley Cup high above their heads.
The Florida Panthers and Vegas Golden Knights have taken completely different paths to reach the Stanley Cup Final. One team barely snuck in after a season of underperforming. The other dominated their conference all season long.
This year's Stanley Cup Playoffs have taken a number of different twists and turns. With one last chapter to be written, who will come out victorious? Which team will take home their first Stanley Cup? Let's take a look at the teams in the 2023 Stanley Cup Final.
Simply put, the Florida Panthers have no business being here. The team massively underperformed after having their best season in team history a year ago. Furthermore, they drew the historic Boston Bruins in the first round.
And yet, the Panthers came back from 3-1 down to eliminate those Bruins in seven games. Next on the chopping block were the Toronto Maple Leafs and Carolina Hurricanes.
Florida has received two otherworldly performances to help get them through these Stanley Cup Playoffs. First, we have star forward Matthew Tkachuk. The 25-year-old Arizona native has exploded this postseason with clutch goal after clutch goal.
Tkachuk has nine goals and 21 points in 16 games during these playoffs. He scored three of the team's four game-winning goals in the Eastern Conference Finals. His game-winner in Game 4 with less than five seconds left eliminated the Hurricanes.
The other big performer is not a name many expected to be in this conversation. Goalie Sergei Bobrovsky has completely reverted back to his perennial Vezina form over the last month and a half or so.
Bobrovsky has played 14 games since taking over for Alex Lyon, winning 11 of them. “Bob” has a 2.21 goals against average and a .931 save percentage during that time. He has completely rewritten the narrative around his massive contract with the Panthers.
The Panthers are a team willing to let their opponents take their chances while they look for an opening. Florida has been out-possessed and out-shot many times during these Stanley Cup Playoffs. They've won when it matters most so far, so expect more opportunistic play from the Panthers in this series.
Vegas Golden Knights
The Vegas Golden Knights, meanwhile, have dominated the Western Conference all season. They entered these Stanley Cup Playoffs as the top seed in the West and proved their worth against the Winnipeg Jets.
In the second round, Vegas ran into the Edmonton Oilers. That series was a slugfest, with the Golden Knights coming out on top in six games. Vegas also needed six games to defeat the Dallas Stars in the Western Conference Finals.
Vegas has also received a remarkable performance from one of their star players. Jack Eichel has been simply unreal these playoffs, leading the team with 18 points in 17 games played.
The Golden Knights have a bit more of a balanced offensive attack than Florida. Vegas has four skaters with 15 points or more, while Florida has just two: Tkachuk and Carter Verhaeghe.
Vegas has also received major contributions from their fourth line. Keegan Kolesar and William Carrier both put up multi-point nights in the team's Game 6 win against Dallas in the Western Conference Finals.
Vegas has a shooting percentage that is rather unsustainable for these playoffs. And there are a few players who could come back down to earth over the course of this series.
However, the Golden Knights can certainly create high-danger scoring chances at any time. And their current shooting form makes them a danger anytime they're in the offensive zone.