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The final that everyone predicted: The Vegas Golden Knights and the Florida Panthers. The battle of the south. Neither team has had the chance to host the Stanley Cup, but one team will skate away with hockey’s most prestigious honour.
It has been a gruelling journey for both clubs as the opening day of the postseason kicked off on April 17, 2023. To add to that, the Panthers were battling it out for the final playoff spot in the East until the final days of the regular season.
The Panthers Cinderella story started by knocking off the record-breaking Boston Bruins in seven games during the opening round. Florida had their backs against the wall as the Bruins held a 3-1 series lead before the Panthers strung together three straight wins to take down the 65-win Bruins.
The round one victory was just the start for Florida as they went on to take down the Toronto Maple Leafs in five games and followed it up with a sweep of the Carolina Hurricanes during the Eastern Conference Finals.
There has been a resurgence for 34-year-old Sergei Bobrovsky in between the pipes for Florida. The two-time Vezina Trophy winner came back into action during game three of the opening round and hasn’t looked back. His play has catapulted the ‘Cats to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1996.
On the other side, it is the six-year-old Vegas Golden Knights. They have continued to be one of the most successful expansion teams in the league's history. It will be the second time the Golden Knights have reached the Stanley Cup Final as they fell just short of the pinnacle during their inaugural season in 2018. The team has reached the conference finals in four of the teams first six seasons.
The Golden Knights entered the playoffs as the Pacific Division Champions after finishing the season 51-22-9 which was good for their highest point total in franchise history. They opened up the playoffs with the Winnipeg Jets. After dropping the opening game of the series, the Golden Knights put together a reverse sweep as they knocked down the high-flying Jets in five games.
Vegas met with Canada’s other Western Conference hopeful, the Edmonton Oilers, in the second round. It was a six-game thriller as the two teams' high-powered offences combined for 41 goals, with Vegas closing out the series on the road in front of a defeated Oilers crowd.
The Golden Knights were in for another great battle during the Western Conference Finals as they would meet with the up and coming Dallas Stars. Vegas was able to grab a stranglehold on the series in the early goings as they stormed out to win the three first games of the series to shock the Stars.
There have only been four teams in the history of the NHL to come back from a three to nothing hole. The Stars seemed poised to become the fifth team to complete the feat as they took game four and five to make it a series once again. Vegas was able to close out the series on the road with a 6-0 thumping of the Stars during game six to push the Golden Knights to the final.
The 2023 Stanley Cup Final will be the first meeting in the postseason between the Panthers and Golden Knights. The teams met twice during the 2022/23 regular season with each team coming out victorious on one occasion.
Puck drop for game one will be at 5pm on Saturday, June 3 at T-Mobile Arena in Vegas.