Now that the final two teams of the NHL Playoffs have been determined, it is time to make some 2023 Stanley Cup Finals predictions.
2023 Stanley Cup Finals predictions
At first, it looked like we would get sweeps in both the Eastern and Western Conference Finals. The Florida Panthers were the first to book their ticket to the finals, defeating the Carolina Hurricanes in four games. The Vegas Golden Knights also led their series 3-0, but Dallas won two straight before the Golden Knights blew out the Stars in game six to advance.
For Vegas, this is their first time in the Stanley Cup Final since their first season as an NHL franchise in 2018 when they lost to the Washington Capitals. This is Florida’s second time in the finals as well, but their last appearance was all the way back in 1996. With neither team having won a championship, we know for sure that the winning team will be lifting the Stanley Cup trophy for the first time in their franchise’s history.
The Stanley Cup Finals schedule gives the Panthers a lot of rest heading into game one of the finals. Florida will have had nine days off between the end of the Conference Finals and the start of the Stanley Cup Finals on June 3rd. The Panthers will travel to Vegas for the first two games of the series, which will benefit the Golden Knights, who will have just four days off before the start of the finals.
To get you ready for what looks like a great series ahead, here are a few 2023 Stanley Cup Finals predictions.
Matthew Tkachuk will lead the series in points
In the Eastern Conference Finals, Tkachuk scored the overtime winner in games one and two, assisted on the game-winning goal in game three, and then scored the game-winning goal once again in game four.
I believe that for the Florida Panthers to come out on top in this series, they will need Tkachuk to get on the scoresheet often. He has proven that he can, registering 21 points in 16 games already this postseason. Although it will be hard to top the three game-winning goals he had in the last series, I predict Tkachuk will have the most points in the Stanley Cup Finals when it is all said and done.
Panthers win their first Stanley Cup
Although the Vegas Golden Knights were the better team in the regular season and look like the better team on paper, I believe they will not be able to stop the run the Florida Panthers have been on since going down 3-1 to Boston in the first round.
After falling behind 3-1 against the Bruins, the Panthers have lost just one game. Florida was not even supposed to make the playoffs, snatching the final spot because of a Pittsburgh loss to Chicago, but now find themselves 11-1 in their last 12 playoff games.
The teams they have beat along the way to the finals have made the run they are on even more incredible. They beat Boston, who had the greatest regular season in NHL history, then they took out the talented Maple Leafs in five games before topping that by sweeping a strong Stanley Cup contender in the Carolina Hurricanes. You can argue that all three of the teams the Panthers have played this postseason are better than the Vegas Golden Knights.
However, as good as the Panthers have looked, I do not see them getting past Vegas as easily as they did Toronto and Carolina. What Vegas has that Florida does not have is experience. The Golden Knights have repeatedly made deep runs in the playoffs and know what it takes to win when it matters most. They do not want another great playoff run to go to waste without a championship.
When it comes to postseason hockey, momentum is a real weapon. Despite Vegas being the better team, Florida has the stronger momentum coming into the series. I predict they will cap off their incredible run with a Stanley Cup championship, as I have the Florida Panthers defeating the Vegas Golden Knights in six games.
Sergei Bobrovsky takes home the Conn Smythe Trophy
A lot of Florida’s success in the playoffs has had to do with the play of Sergei Bobrovsky. Bobrovsky is 11-2 this postseason with a goals-against average of 2.21. He collected his first career playoff shutout in game three of the Eastern Conference Finals and currently has a .935 save percentage.
Bobrovsky has been standing on his head for the majority of these playoffs. He has faced at least 30 shots in all but two games he has started. Bobrovsky has actually been better the more shots he has faced, as he is currently 8-0 when his opponents get at least 35 shots on goal. The game that stands out the most is game one of the Eastern Conference Finals when Bobrovsky saved 63 of 65 shots in a quadruple overtime victory.
Simply put, the Florida Panthers cannot win this series without Bobrovsky continuing to play at this elite level. Vegas has a high-flying offense capable of scoring five goals on any given night. If Bobrovsky can hold them down for the majority of the series, the Panthers will be the team to come out on top, while Bobrovsky will win the Conn Smythe Trophy at 34 years old.