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Panthers vs. Golden Knights, 8:00 ET
The stage is set and we get the first puck drop in what seems like a month, but really only a few days as the Florida Panthers take on the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals. There aren’t many sports that I find more exciting in the playoffs than hockey. I generally don’t care about hockey during the regular season outside of gambling purposes, but playoff hockey is fun and interesting. Hockey has been great to the pocketbook this year and I expect that run to continue in the Stanley Cup Finals.
How did these teams get here? Well, aside from the obvious of them beating their competition in the playoffs, they have somewhat different paths. The Panthers barely snuck into the playoffs, but as it has been pointed out – they were great last year. The team clicked at the right time and were able to beat a historically great Bruins team. Then they took four of the five games against a solid Toronto team. They even swept a very talented Hurricanes team. The Golden Knights, on the other hand, were excellent once again in the regular season. In the playoffs, they were able to make quick work of the Jets. In the Oilers series, they alternated wins and loses before taking it down in six games. The Conference Finals saw them jump out to a big lead with the first three games and it looked like it was going to be a sweep. They lost Game 4 and 5 before crushing the Stars in Game 6.
Now, how are they going to beat each other? Well, I think it starts with the goalies. Vegas has relied on Adin Hill to keep them in games these playoffs, and he has been great since he took over in the middle of the Oilers series. On the other side, for the Panthers, Sergei Bobrovsky has been absolutely dominant this playoffs. If he stays hot for another week, he will be hosting more than one trophy. The teams played each other twice this season and split the series. Both games went six goals or fewer. For the Panthers to win, they just really need to keep doing what they are doing. They capitalize on their opportunities very well, and are playing great defense with a goalie that isn’t letting much by at all. For the Golden Knights, I think they need to be very aggressive. If they just hope that opportunities to score will fall into their lap, I don’t think they have a great chance.
I’m going to back the Panthers in this game. My reasoning is that I think the rest vs. rust argument isn’t exactly an issue. The Panthers have had plenty of time to prepare and Vegas isn’t as good at home as they are on the road. I like the way Bobrovsky has played. I’ll back them at +110 to win the first game of the Stanley Cup Finals.
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