As we do every series we welcome a guest to preview the series from the other side. In this Q&A we have David Dwork of TheHockeyNews and Channel 10 in South Florida. David has covered the Panthers for over a decade and grew up a fan of the team so there are not many that know them better than him.
As of today, Florida Panthers goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky is the favorite to win the NHL’s Conn Smythe Trophy. The league’s ultimate personal piece of hardware has a strong history of being given to the leader or star of the winning team. Of course, there have been exceptions, but fans should expect a member of the 2023 Stanley Cup champion will be named as the recipient. Both clubs have their leaders in the locker rooms and their postseason superlatives, who’ve consistently performed on the ice in the previous three series. However, there are dark horse candidates that have worked their way into the Conn Smythe conversation. While some are deserving, there are likely only a few plausible options.
William Hill’s Conn Smythe Odds:
Sergei Bobvrovsky +200
Matthew Tkachuk +250
Jack Eichel +375
Jonathan Marchessault +500
William Karlsson +600
Adin Hill +1200
Mark Stone +1200
Chandler Stephenson +4000
Aleksander Barkov +5000
Carter Verhaege +5000
While the Panthers top the list of Conn Smythe hopefuls, Vegas has six of the top ten contenders. The odds would suggest that if Florida wins, Bobrovsky would be the first choice if the goaltender can continue his Vezina-type run. Tkachuk would be next man up, if the Golden Knights are able to score more per game than the Leafs or Hurricanes but not enough to win four Stanley Cup Finals games. On the flip side, if Vegas ends up hoisting the Cup, the voters will have several names to consider.
Jack Eichel +375
Voters tend to target the marquee players for each team. Eichel is one of those for the Golden Knights. The eight-year veteran has rewritten his career story in just 17 postseason contests. As a point-per-playoff-game player, the top-line center has made it easy for his fans and impossible on his detractors. Even Buffalo Sabres fans would have to keep their comments to themselves. Since Eichel has performed up to expectations he’s being considered as one of the favorites for the Conn Smythe award, but has he been more effective than some of Vegas’ other impact players?
The Golden Knights are champions of the West and ready to take on the Florida Panthers in the Stanley Cup Final. We’ll preview the series from many different angles and make predictions about how we see it going. Plus, we’ll go back over the Western Conference Final to take a look at how Vegas got here.
Goalie Interference is brought to you weekly by the Jimmerson Law Firm. The Jimmerson Law Firm is one of Las Vegas’s preeminent law firms, specializing in high-stakes business, civil and family litigation. When winning matters, seek out The Jimmerson Law Firm.
The Golden Knights have faced their fair share of offensive superstars this postseason and they’re about to see a few more.
Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Roope Hintz, Jason Robertson, Pierre-Luc Dubois, and now Matthew Tkachuk and Aleksander Barkov.
As with any playoff series, the biggest names dominate the conversation before it begins. Then, as it wears on, the winning team usually finds a way to slow them down.
As a staff and as a team we’ve done a good job of taking certain players away from what they want to do as that series has gone on and that’s why we’re still playing. -Cassidy
Vegas has struggled against opposing stars early in series. In Game 1 against Winnipeg, Dubois and Connor each scored to give the Jets a 2-0 lead. Draisaitl scored four in the opening game of the second round and then added another pair in Game 2. And Game 1 of the series against Dallas saw both Hintz and Robertson hit the back of the net.
However, the impact of the best players for the other team dwindled as the series got deeper and deeper.
The Golden Knights are back. Back to the Stanley Cup Final.
Back to the place they saw their storybook inaugural season come to an end, just short of ultimate glory.
For the six players who were there then, the memories of that final series are all returning to the front of their minds, but instead of trying to run from them, they’re taking a different approach.
That first year was just kind of a whirlwind. We’d never been there before and everything was kind of flowing and I don’t know maybe we took it for granted a little bit back then. Five years later there’s been ups and downs and this opportunity doesn’t come around too often. -Karlsson
That group’s feelings have permeated through the entire Vegas roster. It was on full display as they skated as a team towards the Clarence S. Campbell Bowl to be officially crowned Western Conference Champions.
Last time they won, five years ago, de facto captain Deryk Engelland snatched the trophy and began passing it around. They took pictures with it, they brought it back to the locker room, and they clearly cherished it as an accomplishment no one ever expected them to achieve.
And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. They climbed a mountain most believed was unscalable for an expansion team, and they deserved the honor and the glory that’s represented by the trophy presented to the best team in the West.
This time though, not a single player laid a finger on it.
Just talked with the guys (about not touching the trophy). The ultimate goal is to win the Stanley Cup. So we took a picture with it and we’re moving on to the next one. Whether it’s a curse or not, I don’t know. We just want to win the Stanley Cup, that’s really all it is. -Mark Stone
Jonathan Marchessault admitted he was vocal about the decision, still clearly bothered by the fact that the last trip to the Final did not end how they wished.
This time they feel more prepared.
Our team is more mature than we were in that first year. No one was expecting us and we kind of just showed up there and looked at the opportunity. This team wants to win and we will never be finished until we raise that Cup. I’ve kind of got that feeling where the boys feel like tonight is just another series and it’s not the end of the road, we really want more. -Carrier
The feeling in the room about the history of that fateful team was palpable. It doesn’t feel debilitating though. Instead, it’s serving as a reminder and a motivator.
It’s fun to be back with (the guys from the first season) and along the years you go through ups and down and to be back here with them is an opportunity of a lifetime. We know we’ve been here and we lost it. It was disappointing and we learned from it and now we’re back so we have to take advantage of it. -Marchessault
This team is ready.
Ready for tonight’s moment.
Ready to make amends for what went wrong the last time.
Recap: The Golden Knights were prepared to end the Western Conference Finals on the road with a Game 6 victory over the Stars. Vegas came out strong and scored the first goal of the game for the fourth straight game. This time William Carrier patiently flipped a puck over a sprawling Stars goaltender. William Karlsson buried a power play rebound to double the Golden Knights edge and few minutes later Keegan Kolesar gave Vegas a 3-0 advantage.
After an expiring power play, Jonathan Marchessault extended the Golden Knights lead 4-0 heading into the second intermission.
Karlsson tallied another one, his franchise-record 10th of the postseason, in the final period giving Vegas a five-goal lead. Michael Amadio added a 6th for good measure.
The Golden Knights skated to a 6-0 victory, eliminate the Stars and advance to the Stanley Cup Finals. Vegas will host the Florida Panthers for a seven-game series to crown an NHL champion. The finals begin on Saturday night from T-Mobile Arena. Puck drop for Game 1 is scheduled for 5 PM. (Recap by Jason)
Analysis: After a pair of games that left many wondering, the Golden Knights came out and put to bed any possible chance they’d lose this series. They played what may have been the best period in the history of the franchise in the 1st and then followed it up with a defensive clinic protecting the house the rest of the way. The Golden Knights are going to the Stanley Cup Final where they are four wins away from fulfilling The Creator’s prophecy. (Analysis by Ken)
Upcoming stories from the Vegas Golden Knights vs Dallas Stars Game 6 at American Airlines Center.
Over the past two series, Vegas goaltender Adin Hill has performed like a Conn Smythe candidate. Mark Stone and Jack Eichel are the headliners but the Golden Knights backstop is becoming an overnight sensation in 549 postseason minutes in net.
On the flip side, the Dallas Stars had full confidence in starting goaltender Jake Oettinger coming into the playoffs. It wasn’t a question of who would be in the net for the Stars. Through 18 postseason starts, Oettinger hasn’t been as sharp as he was for Dallas in the regular season The 24-year-old is significantly below his career averages in goals allowed per game and save percentage. Hill, however, has exceeded all expectations.
So what should we expect from the two netminders tonight in Dallas?
Every time our team’s stumbled, every time he’s had a stumble, his response has been exactly like it was tonight. I had no doubt that’s what we were going to get. I don’t think we’ve seen the best of him yet. I think he’s starting to heat up here too. -Pete DeBoer
Stars coach Pete DeBoer has seen his share of goalie adventures in the past. In 2012, an ageless Martin Brodeur led DeBoer’s Devils to a Stanley Cup Final. As Sharks coach, he had long runs with Martin Jones, and several failed runs with Martin Jones. And, like VGK fans, I’m sure DeBoer has wiped Marc-Andre Fleury’s 2021 Conference Final blunder away from his memory.
For the first 10+ games of this playoff run one of the most consistent parts of the Golden Knights’ game has been their 4th line. No matter what has been going on with the group ahead of them, the grinders on the 4th line have gotten the job done night in and night out.
The Western Conference Final started out that way as Teddy Blueger came up with the go-ahead goal in the 3rd period. In Game 2 the 4th line was the only group that had any consistent success at 5-on-5, out-attempting the Stars 10-3, out-chancing them 3-0, and managing multiple high-danger chances without allowing one.
From there though, and especially in the past two games, it’s headed in the wrong direction for the depth players in gold.
Our 4th line didn’t do what it typically does in terms of puck possession in the O-Zone and then they were forced to play and got outworked in the D-Zone. So that’s something I expect to change. Whether Howden’s on that line, Blueger, or Nic Roy, they have to do a better job against their 4th line. Give credit to that line for Dallas, they outplayed our guys. -Cassidy
The group of Radek Faksa, Fredrik Olafsson, and Luke Glendening dominated the Golden Knights’ 4th line in Game 5 including the massive goal that tied the game. That group posted a 92% expected goals share against the VGK 4th line and did not allow William Carrier, Keegan Kolesar, and Brett Howden anything near the front of the net.
In many ways, it set the tone for the rest of the team.
That was one part of the game where that slot battle comes into play and that urgency tilts the game in their favor. When our 4th line is going well like that, our game goes better. They did some good things but they have to get back to who they are and their identity. -Cassidy
Vegas had troubles in many areas of the ice last night, including giving the puck away 24 times, but the largest area of concern is directly in front of the net. After being basically even through two games, the Golden Knights now trail 63-48 in high-danger chances in the series. Even as good as Adin Hill has been, the Stars have scored five goals from high-danger chances in the past two games, they had just three in the first three.
That’s our group, next man up. We got contributions from everyone. I mean that’s a gutsy win being down a couple of guys and coming in here. I like our group and I wouldn’t bet against them. -Pete DeBoer
To turn this around and secure that final win, the Golden Knights must get back to getting contributions up and down the lineup. Vegas’ depth has made line matching difficult for opposing coaches, especially in road games. With Game 6 taking place at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Vegas is going to need everyone to get back to playing the way they were.
Recap: The Golden Knights hosted the Stars for Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals up 3-1 in the series. Ivan Barbashev opened the scoring with a great individual move in front of the net. Minutes later the Stars evened the score after deflecting the puck past Adin Hill. In the waning moments both teams had quality chances, but the goaltenders stepped up in net. Going into the first intermission the game was locked in a 1-1 tie.
Early in the period Shea Theodore found an open Chandler Stephenson and the top-six center wristed a puck into Dallas’ net. A couple of minutes later the Stars matched the score 2-2.
Dallas’ offense heated up in the final period, scoring the first two goals of the frame. The Golden Knights attempted a comeback, but the Stars held on to thier 4-2 advantage.
With their 4-2 win over Vegas, Dallas forces a Game 6 back in Texas on Monday. Puck drop is scheduled for 5PM (Recap by Jason)
Analysis: The game started out quite choppy and the Golden Knights seemed to be the beneficiaries of it, scoring first and posting the first seven shots. Then the Stars found their way into the game and started creating dangerous chances all over the place. Adin Hill was terrific once again but the dam eventually broke with a pair in the 3rd. VGK will now head back to Dallas where they’ll have a lot more pressure than they’ve had at any point in this postseason. Time to really react. (Analysis by Ken)
Upcoming stories from the Vegas Golden Knights vs Dallas Stars Game 5 at T-Mobile Arena.
Adin Hill has been so good this postseason I’ve actually bookmarked the thesaurus entry for outstanding on my web browser so I can keep coming up with new ways to describe him.
Marvelous. Extraordinary. Remarkable.
No matter which adjective speaks to you most, Hill has personified all of them and it is…
419 goalies have played at least nine games in a single playoff run. Adin Hill currently sits tied for 21st all time among them with a .938 save percentage. Two of the three goalies he’s tied with are Curtis Joseph and Dominik Hasek. Hill is ahead of Andrei Vasilevskiy’s run in 2021, ahead of Hall of Famers Jacques Plante and Glenn Hall from the late 50’s and 60’s, and even a few points ahead of Carey Price the year the Canadiens eliminated the Golden Knights.
And it’s not like he’s doing this without seeing a lot of action. The Golden Knights have allowed 33.7 shots per game in Hill’s nine appearances, also ranking top 25 all time.
The advanced numbers love Hill’s game too. He’s stopped 5.02 goals above expected in this round alone according to NaturalStatTrick.com and he’s amassed 6.4 total in his nine games for 0.78 per game. To compare, in the Golden Knights last run to the Cup Final, Marc-Andre Fleury posted 8.5 goals saved above expected in 20 games or 0.41 per game, almost half of what Hill is doing.
Per MoneyPuck.com’s wins above replacement stat, Hill has added 1.06 wins to the Golden Knights’ tally. Which, considering the fact that he’s supposed to be the “replacement” is… click here, you pick one.
Now that I know literally every word in the English language to try to describe the last three weeks the Golden Knights have experienced with Hill in the net, the word that fits best is unbelievable.
So unbelievable it’s making the thought of Vegas being the next word engraved on hockey’s holy grail very believable.