NHL’s Non-Traditional Hockey Markets Are Ruling The Conference Finals

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This isn’t something that the Original 6 hardos will want to hear, but the Stanley Cup playoffs have been dominated by teams in “non-traditional” markets.

With the Vegas Golden Knights and Dallas Stars squaring off in the Western Conference and the Carolina Hurricanes and Florida Panthers duking it out in the Eastern Conference, the NHL is seeing something new.

Never before has the NHL postseason been dominated by teams in southern markets the way it has in 2023.

New York Times reporter John Branch pointed this out and gave a reference point for just how southern the final four teams truly are.

That’s right. In a league with teams as far north as Edmonton, the most northerly team still standing is the Vegas Golden Knights. The Stars, Hurricanes, and Panthers all play in cities farther south than Las Vegas.

While as far as these playoffs are concerned, this amounts to nothing more than a (somewhat) interesting factoid, it does say something about the NHL’s expansion into these “non-traditional” markets.

No one saw the Panthers eliminating both the Boston Bruins and the Toronto Maple Leafs, but here we are. (Photo by Gavin Napier/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

These 4 Teams Make Up An Unexpected Conference Finals Quartet

What also kind of makes this crop of teams fun is that it’s they were completely unexpected. It wouldn’t have been a surprise to see one or two of these teams get this far, but all four? No way. Especially on the Eastern Conference side of the equation.

I mean, look at this disgraceful bracket I filled out at the start of the playoffs.

Like, I’m dumb, but not that dumb. That thing is a mess.

Shout out to the Stars for being the only team that didn’t totally make me look like a buffoon who has never watched hockey.

I shouldn’t get too down on myself; the was cheering for the Flyers this postseason…

If you said the Panthers were going to come out of the Atlantic Division side of the bracket — not the Bruins or Leafs (alright, we all knew it wouldn’t be the Leafs) — you’re lying.

Then out west, the whole picture was kind of blurry from the start. You could have told me any team that doesn’t play in St. Paul, Minnesota or Winnipeg, Manitoba would be playing for the Clarence S. Campbell Bowl. and I wouldn’t argue with you. It was a total crapshoot.

Now, who takes home the conference championships?

The Stars and Hurricanes have won the Stanley Cup before. Can they do it again, or will the Golden Knights or Panthers win their first Cup in franchise history? (Getty Images)

Who’s Going To The Stanley Cup Finals?

I like Carolina a lot, but I don’t think they’ve really been tested this postseason. The Islanders were lucky to be in the postseason, while the Devils would’ve gotten better goaltending had they stuck a traffic cone between the pipes.

The Panthers, on the other hand, have slain two giants through the first two rounds: the Bruins and Leafs (okay; one-and-a-half giants).

That, coupled with the fact that I get some major 2019 St. Louis Blues “team of destiny” vibes from them, is why I think the Florida Panthers will win — then not touch — the Prince of Wales Trophy.

The Western Conference is way tougher to pick. I think this series could easily go 7. That would require Dallas goalie Jake Oettinger to lose three games. The man is almost unbeatable in games after losses. There would be four of those, and I think the Stars will win them.

I think they’ll the Clarence S. Campbell Bowl, which means I’m calling a Florida Panthers-Dallas Stars Stanley Cup Finals.

But because I just said this publically, prepare for the Golden Knights and Hurricanes to battle for the Cup instead.

Follow on Twitter: @Matt_Reigle

Written by Matt Reigle

Matt is a University of Central Florida graduate and a long-suffering Philadelphia Flyers fan living in Orlando, Florida. He can usually be heard playing guitar, shoe-horning obscure quotes from The Simpsons into conversations, or giving dissertations to captive audiences on why Iron Maiden is the greatest band of all time.

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