On Monday night, the Vegas Golden Knights destroyed the Florida Panthers 7-2 in Game 2 of the 2023 Stanley Cup Final. Interestingly, the game was the second consecutive contest that the Golden Knights scored at least five goals against the Panthers, who hadn’t surrendered more than four in a game since their opening series against the Boston Bruins.
As the series shifts to Florida for Games 3 and 4, the theme of the Finals has been an abundance of goals and penalty minutes. So far, the teams have a combined 16 goals and 16 misconducts, resulting in 212 penalty minutes. Although special teams haven’t altered the course of the series, the Golden Knights are 4-for-11 on the power play, while the Panthers have yet to score on seven opportunities.
Historically, this year marks the first time that Vegas has earned two wins in the Stanley Cup Final, while the Panthers are still looking for their first-ever win as a finalist, falling to 0-6 after Game 2’s loss. Considering we have an extra day off before Game 3 on Thursday, we have plenty of time to discuss takeaways from Monday night’s lopsided contest.
Nothing is slowing down Golden Knights star Jack Eichel
For the second straight game and the sixth time during the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Jack Eichel scored at least two points inching closer to the NHL Playoff scoring title. Considering this year is his first appearance in the postseason, he’s impressed on the game’s grandest stage like a seasoned veteran.
Interestingly, there was panic throughout the Vegas fanbase once Eichel left the game after a bone-crunching hit in the second period. However, after some time in the room and resting during the intermission, he returned to the bench in the third and set up the Golden Knight’s fifth goal just 2:10 into the period.
Although his teammate Jonathan Marchessault is grabbing all the attention with his timely goals, Eichel should remain the favorite to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP after a gutsy performance in Game 2.
Golden Knights chase Florida Panthers’ Sergei Bobrovsky
When the Stanley Cup Playoffs opened, the Florida Panthers started Alex Lyon in their series against the Boston Bruins. Unfortunately, the experiment didn’t work, as they fell behind in the series 3-1 before Sergei Bobrovsky came in to save the season.
As the history books will show, the Panthers, with Bobrovsky between the pipes, would win 11 out of their next 12 games, eliminating some of the highest seeds in the playoffs. Then, the team enjoyed a 10-day break between sweeping the Eastern Conference Final and the beginning of the Stanley Cup Final. Ultimately, having that much time off destroys momentum, and it’s shown for the Panthers, who have now been outscored 12-4 after two games.
Statistically, Bobrovsky is on the hook for nine goals, getting pulled for the first time this postseason during the second period of Game 2. Although he hasn’t been at fault for every goal, the Golden Knights have been in his face preventing him from seeing the puck. Moreover, after two games, he’s come down back down to earth, and if the Panthers have any chance to win four of the next five games, he needs to channel the energy he possessed from the previous rounds.
Florida Panthers’ playoff hero Matthew Tkachuk is invisible thus far
The Panthers advanced to the Stanley Cup Final thanks to several heroic moments from Matthew Tkachuk, who scored three game-winners in the Eastern Conference Final. Ultimately his performance through three rounds had everyone in the media talking about his ability to turn up his play in crucial moments.
Interestingly, in the Stanley Cup Final, Tkachuk has one goal, six shots, and 36 penalty minutes after two games. It’s not the kind of production you expect from a superstar with 21 points in his previous 16 games. Should the Florida Panthers fail to win this series, those singing his praises will wonder what happened to him.
Moreover, if Tkachuk doesn’t find his game again, the highlight of his first trip to the Stanley Cup Final will be an open-ice hit on Eichel in Game 2. However, his hit had little effect on the game because while serving 12 minutes of penalties, he had to watch Eichel set up a third-period goal upon his return.
Although Tkachuk is not the captain, he is the unofficial leader of the team, and if he’s not producing, it will be up to the rest of the guys to step up, or this will be a short series.