The NHL Conference Final matchups are set with the Florida Panthers, Carolina Hurricanes, Dallas Stars and Vegas Golden Knights serving as this year's unlikely Final Four. Here's a quick preview of both series' including my take on which sides' will end up meeting in the Stanley Cup Final.
Odds courtesy of DraftKings.
Carolina Hurricanes -135 vs. Florida Panthers
I'm not sure any team has looked as dominant through the opening two rounds of the Stanley Cup Playoffs as the Carolina Hurricanes. Despite missing a number of key contributors due to injury, the Canes have ramped up their game to another level in skating past the New York Islanders and New Jersey Devils. Now they face the last team to qualify for an Eastern Conference playoff spot in the upstart Florida Panthers in an old Southeast Division showdown. Note that Carolina took two of three regular season meetings, outscoring Florida by a 10-7 margin along the way. While the Canes have prevailed in 42 of the last 62 home meetings in this series, the Panthers have actually come away victorious in two of their last three games in Raleigh. Both teams are expected to get some help on the injury front with the Panthers expecting to have Ryan Lomberg back on the ice while the Canes welcome back Teuvo Teravainen, likely in one of the first two games in the series. Carolina has been incredibly stingy on home ice this season, limiting the opposition to just 2.4 goals per game while outscoring opponents by an average margin of 1.0 goal. The Panthers have given up 3.3 goals per contest on the season but have tightened things up in the postseason, yielding 3.1 goals per game.
Prediction: Hurricanes in six.
Vegas Golden Knights -140 vs. Dallas Stars
Few teams have been forced to use as many goaltenders as the Golden Knights this season but here they are, still standing with home ice advantage as the Western Conference Final awaits. The Dallas Stars actually swept the three-game regular season series between these two teams, outscoring Vegas by a wide margin of 9-3. The return of Mark Stone from long-term injured reserve has made a big difference for the Knights as he has contributed 12 points in 11 games, playing mostly on the second line. The Knights and Stars are almost mirror images of one another in terms of goals for and against this season, both at home and on the road. While Vegas will hope to get goaltender Laurent Brossoit back sooner rather than later, Adin Hill stepped in and performed admirably late in the series against Edmonton and has posted a .934 save percentage in five appearances in these playoffs. Stars goaltender Jake Oettinger seemed to be fighting it throughout the series against Seattle and has recorded a .903 save percentage in 13 playoff games. Of note, the Stars haven't lost consecutive games since March 14th and 16th while the Knights last dropped back-to-back contests on March 28th and 30th.
Prediction: Vegas in seven.