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Stanley Cup Final 2023: Why Golden Knights, Jack Eichel can beat the underdog Panthers

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The Vegas Golden Knights are set to play in their second Stanley Cup Final in just their sixth season as an NHL franchise. Not too bad. 

After completely missing the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season, the Golden Knights were able to have their roster at full strength this season. The Golden Knights made a huge splash back in Nov. 2021 when they acquired star forward Jack Eichel in a blockbuster trade with the Buffalo Sabres. As the postseason has unfolded, Eichel has proven to be one of several playmakers that has led this dynamic Golden Knights team to the brink of hoisting Lord Stanley Cup. 

Vegas has already eliminated two of the most lethal offensive teams in the league, the Edmonton Oilers and Dallas Stars, en route to making the Final. The Golden Knights even dominated the Stars 6-0 in the Western Conference Final-clinching game.

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While the Florida Panthers have been an impressive underdog story, here’s why the Golden Knights have a high chance (they are the favorites to win the series with -125 odds at Caesars Sportsbook) of winning their first Stanley Cup in franchise history.

Scoring depth

Obviously, Eichel is extremely dangerous as the Golden Knights’ top-line center, but he is far from the only player that puts the puck in the back of the net at an alarming rate.

  • Vegas ranks third with 3.65 goals-per-game, behind only the Boston Bruins and Edmonton Oilers, who had a smaller sample size. 
  • The Golden Knights’ top six has been incredibly productive, but no one more than winger Jonathan Marchessault. Marchessault ranks second on the team with nine goals throughout the postseason.
  • In six games against Dallas, the Vegas star racked up four goals and three assists, including scoring the game-tying goal in Game 2 to force overtime.
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William Karlsson (10 goals and four assists), Ivan Barbashev (six goals and nine assists), Mark Stone (six goals and nine assists) and Chandler Stephenson (eight goals and six assists) have also been constant producers from an offensive standpoint.

Considering the amount of goal-scoring threats the Golden Knights possess, the Panthers defense is going to have their work cut out for them.

Success in the five-on-five

The Golden Knights haven’t been an elite group when it comes to the special teams department throughout the postseason. However, this is a team that has thrived when it comes to playing in the five-on-five.

The Golden Knights have tallied 62 goals through 17 games during the Stanley Cup Playoffs — 49 of those have come in the five-on-five, which is the most of any team. 

Vegas has converted just 18.5 percent (10-for-54) of their power-play opportunities and scored just three goals on the man advantage in their series against the Stars. Still, their success in the five-on-five is made possible by the fact that seven different players have registered double-digit points throughout the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Stability in net

Before the 2022-23 regular season even got underway, the Golden Knights had one extremely large question mark on its roster: the goaltending position. 

  • In August, the team announced that starting goalie Robin Lehner needed hip surgery and was slated to miss the entire 2022-23 season as a result.
  • With Lehner out of the picture, Logan Thompson became the team’s starting option in the crease, and he did an admirable job. Thompson put together an All-Star season to the tune of a 21-13-3 record to go along with a 2.65 goals-against-average and a .915 save percentage. However, Thompson suffered a lower-body injury back in March and has been out ever since.
  • As a result of the team’s injuries, they went out and acquired veteran goaltender Jonathan Quick at the trade deadline.
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Entering the postseason, the Golden Knights had Laurent Brossoit, Adin Hill and Quick as their goaltender options. After recording a 3.18 goals-against-average and yielding 23 goals in eight games, Brossoit was replaced by Hill in between the pipes.

In 11 games throughout the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Hill has been terrific as the Vegas starting netminder. The 27-year-old keeper has accumulated a 7-3-0 record, a 2.07 goals-against-average and a .937 save percentage. Hill, who was acquired by the Golden Knights in a trade with San Jose Sharks in August, registered a pair of shutouts against the Stars in the Western Conference Final.  The veteran goaltender also turned aside at least 30 shots in four of the six games in that series.

If Hill can continue to stand on his head in the Stanley Cup Final, the Golden Knights will be a tough team to beat.

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