The Stanley Cup Final begins tonight, with the matchup everybody was expecting: The Florida Panthers against the Vegas Golden Knights!
Both clubs had impressive runs to the finals and with both franchises looking for their first career Cup, the Stanley Cup odds have Vegas as a slim favorite heading into the series.
With a tight matchup expected every game, this series could go either way, which is why our Covers staff are divided in their NHL picks.
We've polled our top hockey minds for their Stanley Cup predictions, Conn Smythe pick, and series X-factor, along with a quick rundown of why they're backing that side. If you want a more in-depth breakdown of this series, check out Josh Inglis' full Stanley Cup preview.
Stanley Cup Final odds
Expert Stanley Cup Final Predictions
|Writer||Pick (odds)||Conn Smythe||X-Factor|
|Josh Inglis||Florida in 6 (+475)||Matthew Tkachuk||Sam Bennett|
|Jared Hochman||Vegas in 6 (+500)||Mark Stone||Alex Pietrangelo|
|Jonny Lazarus||Vegas in 7 (+425)||William Karlsson||Ivan Barbashev|
|Robert Criscola||Vegas in 6 (+500)||Jonathan Marchessault||Rest vs. Rust|
|Kyle LaRusic||Florida in 7 (+550)||Sergei Bobrovsky||William Karlsson|
Odds courtesy of DraftKings as of June 3, 2022.
Josh Inglis: Panthers in 6
These two teams match up very well, but the Florida Panthers and Paul Maurice have shown an ability to adapt to their opponent as they’ve knocked off the Bruins, Maple Leafs, and Hurricanes — who all, at one time, had the best NHL odds to win the Cup.
Matthew Tkachuk and Sam Bennett are the best duo in this series and if Sergei Bobrovsky continues to play at his current level, the Vegas Golden Knights will struggle to hit the three-goal mark in any game.
Vegas benefited from the inconsistent play of Dallas' Jake Oettinger in the third round, and likely won’t have that benefit in the Finals.
Jared Hochman: Golden Knights in 6
The Panthers' storybook run has been nothing short of remarkable, with Bobrovsky being back on the case and Panthers going from the precipice of booking tee times (twice) to giving opposing forwards nightmares for three weeks straight.
That said, Vegas has been straight-up dominant this postseason, overwhelming Connor McDavid & Co. at 5-on-5 and handling its business against Dallas in the WCF, in part because it is a deep, talented, and disciplined defensive squad.
The Golden Knights are the deeper team and have a much better defensive structure. Yes, we've said that before for Florida's opponents, but unlike Carolina and Toronto, Vegas can (and has) consistently scored, sitting third in the postseason in goals per game. The Panthers also have the fifth-worst expected goals percentage at 5-on-5, getting bailed out repeatedly by Bobo... but I don't think he'll be as superhuman against what has been the toughest offense they'll have faced since Boston.
Much of Vegas' Conn Smythe odds attention has gone to Eichel, Marchessault, and Karlsson, but let's not forget about ol' Mark Stone. He was quiet in the WCF, but still is third on the team with 15 points. He's not the flashiest guy, but in my opinion, he's still the most complete player on this roster, and if he has a big performance in the Final, I think there's great value in him in the 10/1 range.
Who can be the unsung hero? Well, Vegas is an elite defensive squad... so why not talk about veteran defenseman Alex Pietrangelo? He leads all Vegas blueliners with nine points and almost 24 minutes per game of ice time (the next closest player is basically 20/game), and was a critical piece of the Blues' Cup run in 2018-19.
He had six points in the final four games of his previous Cup Final series, and as one of the most experienced playoff players in this series, don't count out the impact he could have now.
Jonny Lazarus: Golden Knights in 7
This is going to be quite the battle, with two teams that have had fantastic runs... and most people probably wouldn't have guessed they would be here.
The Panthers are the team that stands out more in my mind, as they have been scorching hot since the first round, but the Final is different. Vegas has been the team that has been able to adjust to its opponent in all three rounds and I believe it will be able to do that again.
The Golden Knights have a much deeper roster and they are certainly the better team at 5-on-5. It's hard to count the Panthers out (again), but what Bruce Cassidy and the Golden Knights have done just seems more sustainable. I do think this series will go the distance, and I think Vegas wins on home ice in seven games.
If the Golden Knights are going to win, it will be because of the play of William Karlsson. Their third-line center has been a huge difference-maker this postseason, as he has had to match up against their opponent's top players, so it can be assumed that he will be the one who needs to shut down the Panthers' top offensive threats — plus he also happens to lead the team in goals with 10, so he is getting it done on both ends of the ice.
If I had to pick one X-factor in this series it would be Vegas' most recent trade deadline acquisition, Ivan Barbashev. He has been phenomenal thus far for his new team, registering 15 points in 17 games while also posting a +12.
Robert Criscola: Golden Knights in 6
Former Vezina winner Sergei Bobrovsky has seemingly found the Fountain of Youth, but let’s not forget he wasn’t even the team’s No. 1 option in Round 1 – Alex Lyon got the starting nod in Games 1, 2, and 3 vs. the Bruins. Plus the Panthers offense is too reliant on Tkachuk, as he paces the club in goals and assists, and leads all forwards with a staggering 22:42 of ice time per game this postseason.
By contrast, Eichel is the Vegas Golden Knights' leader in TOI among forwards at 19:19 as Vegas is the deeper team. While Adin Hill has stepped up in net for the Knights, he should be thankful for the tremendous defense in front of him — the skew in ice time between Pietrangelo (23:46) and Nicolas Hague (18:25) underscores again just how deep a unit this is.
The Panthers have excelled on the road, but T-Mobile Arena is arguably the most hostile environment in the NHL. Plus, the Knights haven’t been too shabby on the road themselves. I like them to win their first Stanley Cup in Florida in Game 6.
I wouldn’t discount the possibility of either Tkachuk or Bobrovsky winning the Conn Smythe — even in defeat — but ultimately, I’m siding with Jonathan Marchessault.
The sentimentality will be there for the voters, as he was part of the inaugural Golden Knights team that made it all the way to the Final in 2018, but he’s arguably been the best offensive forward for Vegas in the postseason (and is second on the team with 17 points).
If you rolled your eyes reading my X-factor, I don’t blame you: It’s the most over-scrutinized debate in all of sports. However, there’s something to be said for momentum in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and the Panthers will have practically zero after being idle since sweeping the Hurricanes on May 24.
A lack of rhythm could certainly disrupt Bobrovsky in net, and he’s been this team’s meal ticket since the start of the second round.
Kyle LaRusic: Panthers in 7
It’s not the final we expected, nor the one we really wanted, but it’s the final we’ve got, so let's make the most of it!
Vegas and Florida have both gotten to this spot due to their exceptional team defense and outstanding goaltending, but I’m going to have to side with the Panthers, because Bobrovsky has put on a Jean-Sebastien Giguere-like performance in these playoffs, sporting an 11-2 record with a 2.21 GAA, and he's 6-0 in overtime games. It's hard to imagine him falling apart this late in the Cup run.
Karlsson is my X-Factor because he'll be tasked with shutting down Tkachuk, similar to what he did against Roope Hintz in the WCF — and his success in neutralizing (or at least slowing down) Tkachuk will be one of the most significant factors in determining who wins this series.
That said, with both teams excelling on both sides of the puck these playoffs, it's likely going to come down to which goaltender can make saves when it matters most.
Sorry Adin Hill, my money is on Bob.
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2023 Stanley Cup Final Schedule
|Game 1||June 3 @ 8:00 p.m. ET||T-Mobile Arena|
|Game 2||June 5 @ 8:00 p.m. ET||T-Mobile Arena|
|Game 3||June 8 @ 8:00 p.m. ET||FLA Live Arena|
|Game 4||June 10 @ 8:00 p.m. ET||FLA Live Arena|
|Game 5 (if necessary)||June 13 @ 8:00 p.m. ET||T-Mobile Arena|
|Game (if necessary)||June 16 @ 8:00 p.m. ET||FLA Live Arena|
|Game (if necessary)||June 19 @ 8:00 p.m. ET||T-Mobile Arena|
Stanley Cup Final format
Similar to the NBA Finals and World Series, the Stanley Cup Final opens with the higher seed (Vegas) hosting the first two games, followed by the lower seed (Florida) hosting Games 3 and 4, and then (if necessary), alternating with Game 5 in Vegas, Game 6 in Florida, and then a winner-take-all Game 7 back in Nevada.
How we got here
It's crazy to think that the Panthers, who snuck in as the No. 8 seed in the East, were about a minute away from elimination in the first round, but they have been on a tear since coming back from death's doorstep against Boston, humbling Toronto in five games in Round 2 and then sweeping Carolina in the Eastern Conference Final — all the while giving up more than two goals just once in those previous two rounds.
Vegas Golden Knights
The Golden Knights were the No. 1 seed in the West and have played the part, dispatching Winnipeg in five games before sending Edmonton and Dallas home in six games apiece.
Vegas has not trailed in a series since Game 2 of the first round, and has yet to face elimination en route to the Cup Final.
Past Stanley Cup Final winners
Here are the last 10 Stanley Cup Final winners along with their opening odds in mid-June.
|Season||Stanley Cup Winner||Opening odds||Runner up|
|2021-22||Colorado Avalanche||+600||Tampa Bay Lightning|
|2020-21||Tampa Bay Lightning||+900||Montreal Canadiens|
|2019-20||Tampa Bay Lightning||+675||Dallas Stars|
|2018-19||St. Louis Blues||+3,000||Boston Bruins|
|2017-18||Washington Capitals||+1,125||Vegas Golden Knights|
|2016-17||Pittsburgh Penguins||+1,100||Nashville Predators|
|2015-16||Pittsburgh Penguins||+1,300||San Jose Sharks|
|2014-15||Chicago Blackhawks||+700||Tampa Bay Lightning|
|2013-14||Los Angeles Kings||+1,200||New York Rangers|
|2012-13||Chicago Blackhawks||+1,200||Boston Bruins|