Stanley Cup Finals Betting: David Alter Preview
The Florida Panthers were a Pittsburgh Penguins victory away from not qualifying for the 2023 Stanley Cup playoffs but have certainly made the most of their opportunity. Now they’re up against the Vegas Golden Knights and it appears as though they are finally getting some respect.
The stellar play of star forward Matthew Tkachuk and goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky have helped close the gap in the betting odds as the Panthers are a slight +105 underdog to win in Bodog’s Stanley Cup odds.
That’s much better than the +250 the Panthers were given to beat the NHL’s best regular-season team, the Boston Bruins in the opening round.
“The fact that we did what we did to get here is crazy,” Tkachuk said after the Game 7 win.
Florida wasn’t given much of a chance against the Toronto Maple Leafs (+170) in the second round before disposing of them in five games and then swept a really strong Carolina Panthers team to reach the Final.
“That’s the unfortunate part of this, (people are) going to look back and everyone’s going to say you got swept. That’s not what happened,” Hurricanes head coach Rod Brind’Amour said after Game 4. I watched the game. I’m there. I’m cutting the game. We’re in the game…it could have been four games the other way.”
Meanwhile, the Vegas Golden Knights have flown mostly under the radar despite finishing this season with the best record in the Western Conference (51-22-9). After disposing of the Winnipeg Jets in five games to begin the playoffs. They withstood the challenges brought forth by the Edmonton Oilers and Dallas Stars in the second and third rounds.
The Golden Knights withstood some adversity of their own. When they went up 3-0 in Western Conference Final series with the Stars, Dallas planted an element of doubt with wins in Games 4 and 5. Vegas made a statement by crushing Dallas’ comeback attempt with a dominating 6-0 victory to head to the Stanley Cup Final.
One thing is certain. One of these franchises will win a Stanley Cup for the first time in their histories. The Golden Knights went all the way to the final in their first year of existence in 2018. The Panthers have only been to the final once and it took place back in 1996.
If the Panthers are going to pull it all off, they will need to continue to have clutch scoring from Tkachuk., who scored three of the four game-winning goals against the Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference Final. Tkachuk leads the Panthers with nine goals and 21 points in 16 playoff games. They’ll also need Bobrovsky to continue to deliver the goods in net with a .935 save percentage.
Vegas can certainly overwhelm with their elite depth. In his first ever playoff run, Jack Eichel has led the Golden Knights with six goals and 18 points. Every skater on the Golden Knights registered at least one point in the Western Conference Final.
Although the Panthers appeared to have the edge in goal from the beginning, Adin Hill has been stellar since becoming the goaltender of record.
Pressed into the starter’s net after Laurent Broissoit was injured on May 8, Hill has amassed a 7-3-0 record in the playoffs with a .937 save percentage.
Rest vs Rust
The word on Bobrovsky is that he gets run down when he has to play a lot in a short period of time. After sweeping the Panthers, Florida will have had nine off days before getting back into a game. Is that too much?
The Boston Bruins had a similar rest back in the 2019 Stanley Cup Final before they lost to the St. Louis Blues. Vegas Golden Knights head coach Bruce Cassidy, who was bench boss of the Bruins at the time, acknowledged that the long layoff may have contributed to the result.
In the end I think the Panthers momentum is certainly at risk of cooling down, while the Golden Knights have had their fair share of adversity to get the job done and win the Stanley Cup.
PICK: Golden Knights -125
Conn Smythe Winner
Sergei Bobrovsky +200
Matthew Tkachuk +300
Jack Eicherl +400
Bobrovsky is currently the +200 favourite to win the top playoff MVP honours for good reason. The vote is conducted by 18 members of the PHWA. Six that cover one team. Six that cover another team, and six national writers. There have been several occasions in which the losing goaltender has won the Conn Smythe and there is a good argument to be made that barring a disaster that Bobrovsky may still win this trophy should the Panthers lose. The last time a losing goaltender won the Conn Smythe Trophy was in 2003 when Anaheim Ducks goaltender Jean-Sebastian Giguere took the prize. His team lost to the New Jersey Devils.
If Tkachuk continues to score game-winning goals, it might be enough to sway voters at +300. If Bobrovsky implodes, Eichel is a solid bet at +400.
Keep checking back for David’s preview of each game during the Stanley Cup finals betting and let us know your angle via our Twitter page.