The Florida Panthers and the Vegas Golden Knights will face off for the 2023 Stanley Cup Final starting on Saturday night, with one of them capturing the first NHL championship in franchise history. Here are some of the wagers we have our eyes on before the series starts.
Odds courtesy Caesars Sportsbook unless otherwise noted.
Vegas Golden Knights win series 4-2 (+450)
This is my formal pick for the Stanley Cup Final. I'll admit there might be some recency bias, having watched the Golden Knights humble the Dallas Stars twice on the road in winning the conference final. I think they're a deeper team than the Panthers. I think home-ice advantage is important here; "The Fortress" is going to be bonkers. But Vegas is even better away from The Strip: Its 2.82 expected goals against on the road in all situations is the best in the playoffs. As long as goalie Adin Hill doesn't turn into a pumpkin in the Final, I think the Knights will win the Cup. As far as total games, seven of the past 11 Stanley Cup Final series have finished in six.
Florida Panthers under 16.5 goals (-115)
I think this is a decent hedge. On the one hand you have the Golden Knights, who might be in a defensive groove right now. They have the third-best expected goals against at 5-on-5 for teams that advanced past the first round. They allowed the fewest high-danger shot attempts in the conference final. They allowed fewer than 16 goals in two of their three playoff series. The other series was against Connor McDavid. Now the hedge: What if the Panthers are a wagon? They were only one goal over this total in their five-game win over the Toronto Maple Leafs. They needed only 10 goals to sweep the Hurricanes.
Under 0.5 shutouts in the Stanley Cup Final (-125)
Adin Hill posted two shutouts in the conference final. Sergei Bobrovsky had one. Statistically, they're the two best goalies in the playoffs who have played multiple rounds: Hill has a .937 save percentage, and Bobrovsky's is .935. So that's the reason the odds for having either team post a shutout in the Stanley Cup Final sit at a tantalizing +105. But let's peel it back a little. Hill's two shutouts were in games in which the Golden Knights blitzed Dallas with three first-period goals. Bobrovsky's shutout came against the sputtering offense of the Hurricanes. The Knights have scored at least two goals in 14 of 17 games. The Panthers have scored at least two goals in 13 of 16 games. Neither of these teams has been shut out yet. Grabbing the under here.
Jack Eichel most assists in series (+500)
I was surprised to see these odds for Eichel, who sits behind Matthew Tkachuk (+450) and Aleksander Barkov (+450). Obviously the books feel that Bobrovsky is going to make it difficult for the Golden Knights to score goals. But if they do, those goals could be generated by Eichel. His line with Ivan Barbashev and Jonathan Marchessault is generating 4.69 goals per 60 minutes at 5-on-5. He leads the team with 12 assists. He has assists in seven of his past 10 games as well.
Conn Smythe Winner: Matthew Tkachuk (+250) or Jonathan Marchessault (+500)
Sergei Bobrovsky is the favorite for playoff MVP (+200) entering the Stanley Cup Final, and logic would dictate that if the Panthers win the Cup, it'll be because of his goaltending. But if Tkachuk can add a couple more iconic moments to his postseason in the final, it might be too much for the Professional Hockey Writers Association voters to ignore. He has three overtime game winners. One ended the sixth-longest game in NHL history, and another turned their series against the Bruins around. He also scored the series clincher against Carolina. Factor in the goal celebrations, swagger and cross-sport celebrity, and Tkachuk could win the Conn Smythe if the Panthers win the Cup.
But if the Golden Knights win the Cup, there are three reasons I like Marchessault. First, he's one goal and one point away from being tied for the team lead in both categories. Second, he's an original "Golden Misfit" who also played in the 2018 Stanley Cup Final with them. Finally, the team that tossed him aside at the 2017 expansion draft so the Knights could acquire him? These very Florida Panthers. That's a pretty compelling narrative if he also has the numbers.
Greg Wyshynski is a senior NHL writer, and you can catch his betting insight on "Daily Wager," which airs weeknights at 6 p.m. ET on ESPN2.