Sports. Honestly. Since 2011

Stanley Cup Final Preview: How The Vegas Golden Knights Have to Play Against Florida to Win the Stanley Cup

Previewing the Stanley Cup Final, it’s safe to say that the betting odds may be skewed in Vegas’ way (-135) due to the having home ice, but this series looks to be as evenly matched as there has ever been. Two teams with top-end talent offensively, elite defensemen who have size, skill, and speed, and both teams are receiving stellar goaltending from two goalies who were not starting at the beginning of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Same to say the matchup could not have played out better.

Florida has already knocked off three of the top four teams in the NHL from the regular season and looks to knock off the team that would make it four for four, but what do the Vegas Golden Knights need to do to starve off the Florida Panthers and win their first Stanley Cup in their teams’ short history.

Keys for The Golden Knights vs. The Panthers in the Finals

Need to Continue Strong Offensive Play Five on Five

Offensively, Vegas needs to continue to create offence through the center of the ice. This doesn’t mean having their centremen drive the play but utilizing their team speed between the dots. Although three of the top six scorers are their top three centremen, other players have stepped up and helped out. Ivan Barbashev, Nick Roy, and Keegan Kolesar all stepped up massively in the closeout game six in Dallas. All were helping to create offence by utilizing their size and speed out front of the net.

The depth scoring will also need to continue for the Golden Knights. William Karlsson has been the best player for Vegas, centering the third line, leading the team in goals while also being the team leader in takeaways defensively. Karlsson has also been the top scorer five on-five with nine goals. Vegas needs to keep the game five-on-five because that is when they can genuinely utilize their depth. Keegan Kolesar is the only player who does not average at least ten minutes of ice time on the team and was the most impactful player in game six against the Dallas Stars.

Utilize Team Depth to Keep Pressure on Florida

Florida is very top-heavy and plays only three line throughout most of the game, so utilizing their depth will be one of the most significant factors in this series. Vegas coach Bruce Cassidy has utilized his bottom six forwards throughout the playoffs, and if they stand to have a chance against Florida, there can be no shortening the bench. The difference between Florida and Vegas is that Florida’s fourth line won’t win them a game, but Vegas’ can.

Lastly, they must get into Sergei Bobrovsky’s face and stay in it all game. Bobrovsky has been stellar throughout the playoffs, but the only knock on him is he gives up rebounds. He’s athletic enough to make the saves off of the rebounds, but the chances will be around the crease. He’s made big saves throughout the playoffs one-on-one. So if Vegas wants any chance of beating the brick wall of Sergei Bobrovsky, that is how they will have to do it.

Continue Making Things Hard For Their Opponents On Defense

Defensively the Golden Knights need to concentrate on stopping the top two lines for the Panthers. Vegas will likely have Alex Pietrangelo or Shea Theodore out there defending against the line with Sam Bennett, Matthew Tkachuk, and the other against Aleksander Barkov. Matthew Tkachuk has been carrying the Panthers on his back offensively, scoring game-winner after game-winner, and Vegas has to focus particular attention when he is on the ice. Florida is a top-heavy scoring team, so limiting their chances is exactly what Vegas will do.

In the past two series, the Vegas Golden Knight has had to defend against arguably the top two players in hockey, Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, then had to support a very offensive top-heavy team in the Dallas Stars. So it’s different than defending a star-studded team is foreign territory for them. They also are a team that can sit back for stretches and play elite-level Defence which is where the structure of their system overall is based. They take away the middle of the ice, which I touched upon in a recent article, and do so at an elite level. It is a major factor in how they got to the Stanley Cup Final.

Utilize Defensive Size and Mobility, Continue Strong Goaltending

They have the advantage defensively, as they have two Norris Trophy-caliber defensemen in Pietrangelo and Theodore. The size will also be an advantage on the blue line for Vegas. Their size defensively is nothing like Florida has seen before. The smallest defenseman is Alec Martines, who is 6’1″ but well over two hundred pounds and scored the game-winning goal in the 2014 Stanley Cup Final for the Los Angeles Kings. Not only is size an enormous strength for the defensive corp, but also mobility. They all are terrific skaters and can cover ground while having a massive reach with their sticks. They will likely give similar trouble to Florida, just like they have the Edmonton Oilers and Dallas Stars.

Adin Hill will play a massive role in the series too. Hill stepped in midway through the second round and has been stellar. His 9-3 record is second only to Bobrovsky’s. He is third for goalies who have played over two hundred minutes in the playoffs with a 2.07 goals-against average. He is also leading in shutouts with two. If Vegas is to defeat Florida, he will have an enormous role in it.

Play Five on Five and Vegas Will Win the Stanley Cup

If there is one place where they will have an advantage in this series, it is five on five. They have struggled on special teams on ten of their 55 power play opportunities (18.5%). While having only a penalty kill percentage of 62%. The need to focus especially on staying out of the box as Florida is connecting on 28% of their odd-man opportunities, the second highest of any team who advanced past the first round. Florida has had ten days off but is 4-0 this entire season when having five-plus days off. If Vegas can focus on these keys in each game, they can defeat the Panthers. I expect the Golden Knights to win in six or seven games, but it will take work.

Main Photo: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports


More Posts

sweater number 14

Behind the Sweater Number: No. 14

Sweater numbers are synonymous with players. Most hockey fans can instantly tell you a great player by the number they wear on their back. There

Send Us A Message