This article isn’t for hockey purists who don’t believe hockey should exist in the Sunbelt or non-traditional markets. Believe it or not, I still hear that, and it’s a tired argument.
The Florida Panthers and Vegas Golden Knights have earned their spot playing for the best prize in sports. I’m not going to try and wow you with crazy statistics or anomalies. Instead, I am going to talk about home-ice advantage and how that favors Vegas.
The Knights are 12-5-1 at home in these playoffs. They’re 6-2 in their last eight playoff games. Their advantage is the fan base never boos them. It’s 100% positive energy all the time. Goaltender, Adin Hill has a lot to do with their record, and the teams’ commitment to ugly hockey has been on display. The Panthers are 12-4, but they’ve been sitting for a long time. Ten days will show some rust on BOB. I know the Panthers star goalie very well, and he will be susceptible to a few early goals if the Knights press it early.
William Karlsson is leading the team with goals, he has 10, and nine are at even strength! It’s hard to believe. Why? Because he’s the best shutdown player in the playoffs. He has a 2-1 takeaway-to-giveaway ratio. Matthew Tkachuk has a collection of game-winning goals, four to be exact, for the Panthers, and we will see if that continues.
The Panthers can win for sure. I think the series will ride on BOB. If he starts out slow like I think he might, how long will it take for him to get back in the groove? We’ve seen if he isn’t exactly right it wreaks havoc on the Panthers. His .935 save percentage is impressive. I have to rub my eyes to see Hill has a .937 save percentage. That still seems crazy to me, but that’s the case.
I’m taking Vegas in six. I think their defense will contain the Panthers just enough to win.
I broke it down here with David Gavri.