2023 Stanley Cup Final Preview: Vegas, Florida Eye First Championship In Battle Of Sunbelt

Photo: Las Vegas Review Journal

The Vegas Golden Knights and Florida Panthers will clash in the 2023 Stanley Cup Final. Both teams have yet to win a championship. For just the third time this century, the NHL will see a final matchup that will guarantee a first-time winner.

Florida lost in the 1996 final to the Colorado Avalanche while Vegas dropped the 2018 fourth round to the Washington Capitals in their inaugural season. The Stanley Cup Final will feature two teams from the Sun Belt for just the second time in NHL history (also 2020: Dallas Stars vs. Tampa Bay Lightning). NoVa Caps previews the best-of-seven series between Florida and Vegas.


Graphic: @PR_NHL

TV: TNT/TBS/truTV for every game

How They Got Here


  • Regular season: 51-22-9 record (first in Pacific Division/Western Conference)
  • First round: defeated Winnipeg Jets (five games)
  • Second round: defeated Edmonton Oilers (six games)
  • Third round: defeated Dallas Stars (six games)


  • Regular season: 42-32-8 record (fourth in Atlantic Division, eighth in Eastern Conference)
  • First round: defeated Boston Bruins (seven games)
  • Second round: defeated Toronto Maple Leafs (five games)
  • Third round: swept Carolina Hurricanes

Regular-season leaders


  • RW Jonathan Marchessault (28 goals)
  • C Chandler Stephenson (49 assists, 65 points)
  • C Jack Eichel (27 goals, 66 points)
  • D Alex Pietrangelo (23:58 average TOI/game)
  • G Logan Thompson (21 wins)


  • C Carter Verhaeghe (42 goals)
  • LW Matthew Tkachuk (40 goals, 69 assists, 109 points)
  • D Brandon Montour (24:07 average TOI/game)
  • G Sergei Bobrovsky (24 wins)

Postseason Leaders


  • C William Karlsson (10 goals)
  • Marchessault (nine goals)
  • Stephenson (eight goals)
  • Eichel (12 assists, 18 points)
  • Pietrangelo (23:46 average TOI/game)


  • Tkachuk (nine goals, 12 assists, 21 points)
  • C Sam Reinhart (seven goals)
  • C Aleksander Barkov (10 assists)
  • LW Carter Verhaeghe (six goals, 15 points)
  • Montour (six goals, 27:35 average TOI/game)

Goaltending Matchup

VGK: Adin Hill, 27 — 7-3, .937 save percentage (best in NHL), 2.07 goals-against average (third), two shutouts (tied for first) in 11 postseason games

FLA: Sergei Bobrovsky, 34 — 11-2 (most wins), .935 save percentage (second), 2.21 goals-against average (fourth), one shutout in 14 postseason games

Key Team Postseason Stats

Goals-per-game:                 FLA – 3.13 (7th)           VGK – 3.65 (3rd)

Goals-against per game:   FLA – 2.69 (6th)          VGK – 2.65 (4th)

Power Play:                          FLA – 27.9% (6th)       VGK – 18.5% (9th)

Penalty Kill:                         FLA – 71.2% (13th)      VGK – 63% (14th)

Shots-per-game:                 FLA – 31.7 (8th)           VGK – 30 (12th)

Shots-against per game:   FLA – 37.3 (16th)         VGK – 32.4 (13th)

Faceoff-winning %:           FLA – 44.2% (14th)      VGK – 50% (8th)

5v5 Corsi-for %:                 FLA – 47.34% (11th)     VGK – 46.89% (14th)

5v5 x Goals-For %:            FLA – 46.58% (12th)    VGK – 50.03% (8th)

5v5 SCF %:                          FLA – 48.57% (10th)    VGK – 47.96% (11th)

5v5 Shooting %:                 FLA – 7.62% (T-6th)    VGK – 11.79% (1st)

5v5 Save %:                         FLA – .9461 (2nd)        VGK – .9455 (3rd)

5v5 PDO:                             FLA – 1.022 (3rd)         VGK – 1.063 (1st)

Vegas top-six left-wing Reilly Smith and right-wing Jonathan Marchessault will face their former team, who exposed them both in the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft and traded Smith to the desert, as both teams attempt to win their first championship. They are only two of six Golden Knights remaining from the team that came up just short against Washington in the 2018 final (Karlsson, LW William Carrier, D Shea Theodore, D Brayden McNabb).

The challenge for both teams in this series will be to crack the other’s goalie as both Bobrovsky and Hill are currently playing some of the best hockey that they have played in their respective NHL careers. Florida and Vegas have both underperformed (at the very least) in terms of puck possession this postseason but have gotten to this point with quality goaltending and opportunistic scoring. Whichever team dominates the puck is likely going to come out on top.

Florida will also need more depth scoring this series. Even though the team has four players with at least six goals, Tkachuk has at least six more points and two more goals than any other Panther. Meanwhile, Karlsson is the only player still playing in the Stanley Cup Playoffs with a double-digit total in goals and just one of six Golden Knights with at least six (Marchessault, Stephenson, Eichel/RW Mark Stone/LW Ivan Barbashev: six each). Vegas has had the most balanced scoring during this tournament while Florida has been a top-heavy group throughout the season.

Since going down 3-1 to NHL-record breaking Boston in the first round, Florida, who finished the regular season with a 6-1-1 record in their last eight games, has gone 11-1. However, Game 1 will be their first tilt in 10 days when the puck drops at T-Mobile Arena on Saturday night. Meanwhile, Vegas struggled to close Dallas out after a five-game winning-streak, which included roaring out to a 3-0 series lead in the Western Conference Final. Though, Vegas is coming off of a 6-0 win in Game 6. How each team comes out after facing some recent adversity will be critical as both looking to start the final on the right foot.

Both coaches, Paul Maurice (Florida) and Bruce Cassidy (Vegas), are in their first years with the teams. Florida won the Presidents’ Trophy in 2021-22 while Vegas tied the Colorado Avalanche for the league lead the season prior. Both teams lost to the Stanley Cup runner-up in those seasons (Vegas: Montreal Canadiens in 2021 Stanley Cup Semifinals, Florida: Tampa Bay Lightning in 2022 second-round).

Projected Lines


Verhaeghe — Barkov — Anthony Duclair
Nick Cousins — Sam Bennett — Tkachuk
Eetu Luostarinen — Anton Lundell — Reinhart
Ryan Lomberg — Eric Staal — Colin White

Gustav Forsling — Aaron Ekblad
Marc Staal — Brandon Montour
Josh Mahura — Radko Gudas

Alex Lyon

Scratched: C Zac Dalpe, D Lucas Carlsson, C Aleksei Heponiemi

Injured: RW Patric Hornqvist (concussion)


Barbashev — Eichel — Marchessault
Smith — Karlsson — Michael Amadio
Brett Howden — Stephenson — Stone
Carrier — Nicolas Roy — Keegan Kolesar

Alec Martinez — Pietrangelo
McNabb — Theodore
Nic Hague — Zach Whitecloud

Jonathan Quick

Scratched: C Paul Cotter, D Ben Hutton, RW Phil Kessel, C Teddy Blueger

Injured: G Laurent Brossoit (upper-body), G Logan Thompson (undisclosed), G Robin Lehner (hip)


Odds to win (according to BetMGM) – Vegas: -130; Florida: +110

Odds to win Conn Smythe Trophy (OddsShark) — Bobrovsky: +210, Tkachuk: +290, Eichel: +425, Karlsson/Marchessault: +700 each

Prediction: Florida in 6

More links

2023 Stanley Cup betting: Odds, trends for Knights-Panthers (ESPN)

How cheap are Stanley Cup Finals tickets for Golden Knights vs. Panthers? (New York Post)

Stanley Cup Final Betting Preview (NHL.com)

New England connections run deep in the 2023 Stanley Cup Final (New England Hockey Journal)

Three key storylines to watch in the 2023 Stanley Cup Final (Daily Faceoff)

NHL Stats and Information (NHLPR)

By Harrison Brown

About Harrison Brown

Harrison is a diehard Caps fan and a hockey fanatic with a passion for sports writing. He attended his first game at age 8 and has been a season ticket holder since the 2010-2011 season. His fondest Caps memory was watching the Capitals hoist the Stanley Cup in Las Vegas. In his spare time, he enjoys travel, photography, and hanging out with his two dogs. Follow Harrison on Twitter @HarrisonB927077
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2 Responses to 2023 Stanley Cup Final Preview: Vegas, Florida Eye First Championship In Battle Of Sunbelt

  1. Diane Doyle says:

    A true Southern Series where the winner will lift their first Stanley Cup ever.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I’m looking forward to ice conditions in this one.

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