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Sunday, May 26, 2024

Stanley Cup preview

With the playoffs coming to an end, the Vegas Golden Knights and Florida Panthers will face off in the Stanley Cup finals

 

By CAROLYN (CARI) FENN — sports@theaggie.org

The two teams that will face off in the Stanley Cup Championship are now set in stone. In one of the most unique matchups ever, the Florida Panthers and the Vegas Golden Knights will be facing off to see who will win the coveted cup in the NHL.

What makes this matchup so special is that neither team has ever won the Stanley Cup before. The Golden Knights were only founded six years ago in 2017 and this will be their second appearance in the Stanley Cup final. Their first was back during their first season as an NHL team when they faced off against the Washington Capitals, who won four games to one. 

While the Florida Panthers have been around since 1992, they have never, in their 31 seasons, been able to raise the Stanley Cup over their heads in victory. The last time the Panthers reached the Stanley Cup finals was 27 years ago during the 1995-1996 season when they were swept by the Colorado Avalanche in a quick four-game series. 

No matter which team comes out on top, this Stanley Cup win will be the first in the team’s franchise history. Since 1991, the NHL has expanded the league to include 12 new teams. When either the Golden Knights or Panthers secure the Stanley Cup title this year, it will mark the third time in the last five years that an NHL team has clinched their first-ever Stanley Cup win. Additionally, it will be the sixth time a team has won their first cup in the 21st century.

With a first-time title on the line for the Golden Knights and Panthers, both teams have a lot riding on this final series. Which team has the best chance of winning it all and bringing home their first-ever Stanley Cup?

 

Vegas Golden Knights

After a stellar season, it’s no surprise that the Golden Knights made it to the Stanley Cup final. 

The Golden Knights placed first in the Pacific Division, first in the Western Conference and fifth in the League overall. Additionally, they clinched the best record in the Western Conference with a home record of 25-15-1 and an away record of 26-7-8

Apart from their standings, the Golden Knights had some of the best stats in the postseason, both as a team and individually. 

As a team, in skating, they were third in goals per game with 3.65 and second in penalty minutes with 250. While they weren’t in the top five for power play percentage and being a top team in penalty minutes isn’t the best, their statistics for goals per game show that they are a powerhouse team that can easily find the back of the net in every game. 

For their goaltending, the Golden Knights were fourth in goals against per game with a low 2.65, fourth in save percentage with 0.920% and second in shutouts with two. The strong performances by their keepers throughout the season is a testament to how they will likely hold up against the Panthers’ shots during the finals. 

When looking at the individual players, the Golden Knights have the most players in the top five for their skating in the league. For goals scored, center forward William Karlsson is tied for second with 10 goals and right-wing forward Jonathan Marchessault is tied for fourth with nine goals. Additionally, Marchessault is first for a plus/minus rating with 13, left-wing forward Ivan Barbashev is tied for second with a rating of 12 and defensive player Alec Martinez is tied for fourth with a rating of 11

In terms of goaltending, goalie Adin Hill is the clear star for the Golden Knights. Tied for fourth in the League for his goals against average at 2.07, second for save percentage at 0.937% and tied for third in wins at seven, it is clear that the Golden Knights have a top goalie going into the final. 

With these stats, it’s no surprise that the Golden Knights were able to easily make it to the Stanley Cup finals. Now, they just have to beat the Panthers, who have surprised many with their success so far in the tournament. 

 

Florida Panthers

The Panthers gained entry into the playoffs after winning the second wildcard spot in the Eastern Conference. As a result, their first game was against the Boston Bruins who are ranked first in the League, Eastern Conference and Atlantic Division. Though the odds seemed stacked against them, the Panthers were able to come out on top, winning the series 4-3 in seven games. 

This series win for the Panthers was the start of an impressive playoff run. They went on to beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-1 and Carolina Hurricanes 4-0. The Panthers, who are ranked 17th in the NHL, beat three of the top five teams in the league. Their journey to the Stanley Cup final this season was an underdog story that will be decided in the finals. 

Despite being ranked 17th in the NHL, the Panthers still have some strong players that have been huge contributors to their performance in the playoffs. 

As a team, for their skating, the only statistic that they were in the top five was penalty minutes where they are ranked third with 203. However, in goaltending, they are in the top five for two of three important statistics. For save percentage, they are in second with 0.930%, and for shutouts, they are tied for third with one. Where the Panthers seem to shine the most, statistically, is in their individual players’ performances. 

For skating, left-wing forward Matthew Tkachuk is second in points with 21 and is tied for fourth in goals at nine. For goaltending, goalie Sergei Bobrovsky is fifth for goals against average at a low 2.21, third in save percentage at 0.935% and first in wins at 11. These two players have been key to the Panthers’ progression in the playoffs. 

The NHL series began on Saturday, June 3. In games one and two, The Golden Knights defeated the Panthers, 5-2 and 7-2, respectively. As the series currently stands, it seems as if the Golden Knights have the best odds of winning the cup. However, if the Panthers’ underdog performance has proven anything so far, it is that they cannot be counted out just yet. 

With the Stanley Cup playing out over the next two weeks, it is unclear as of now who will come out on top. However, one thing we can know for certain is that whichever team gets the opportunity to hoist the Stanley Cup over their heads in victory will be doing it for the first time in their franchise’s history in the NHL.

 

Written by: Carolyn (Cari) Fenn — sports@theaggie.org