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Game 3: What Went Right, What Went Wrong, What Needs To Change

(Photo Credit: Ken Boehlke,

For nearly 58 minutes last night, the Golden Knights were the better team. Hockey can be cruel though, and unfortunately, Vegas had to endure another lesson on the unpredictability of the best sport on the planet.

The commanding 3-0 Stanley Cup lead vanished and now the Panthers have a heartbeat where it felt like they were heading for life support.

The preponderance of the game may not have led to the outcome the Golden Knights were searching for, but that does not mean it did not exist nor that it can’t be learned from. There was plenty of good with just a sprinkle of bad. Here’s what went right, what went wrong, and what needs to change for Vegas heading into Game 4 tomorrow night.

What went right

Penalty Kill

Probably the strongest aspect of the Golden Knights’ game not only last night, but in the series as at large, has been their penalty kill. Vegas is a sterling 12 for 12 on the kill and caused the Panthers to struggle in many areas with the man advantage.

The strongest among them has been Vegas’ entry defense. Time and time again when Florida is attempting a power play breakout they’ve run into troubles at the VGK blue line. So much so that their most successful entry attempts have come by dumping the puck in. In addition, the Golden Knights have been excellent at clearing the puck when they get it on their sticks. If Vegas gets a touch, there’s a strong possibility the puck is headed 200 feet the other way.

Finally, the Golden Knights made adjustments inside of the penalty kill that helped on the later Florida Power plays.

They looked like they didn’t have the quick efficient movement like they did in Game 2 so we took some things away. What they did was hit (Sam) Reinhart in the bumper a few times and that’s something we corrected as we went along. -Cassidy

Florida was able to work the puck into Reinhart three times on a pair of power plays in the 2nd period. The final one in the 2nd and the only in the 3rd, Vegas denied that option and it further stymied the Panther power play.

Protecting the house

When you look at the shot chart from Game 3 it appears the Panthers had a lot of activity around the front of the Golden Knights’ net. However, in reality, despite the puck being there a lot more often than Vegas would prefer, Florida was not able to generate offense from directly in front of the goal.

Florida attacked from every different angle and with varying numbers advantages or disadvantages and the Golden Knights had the answer for all of them at even strength. Vegas racked up 31 shots protecting the center and there were countless numbers of stick checks that broke up plays before Florida could even attempt the shot.

Adin Hill was clean on most of his rebounds and on the ones he wasn’t the first stick on the puck in the blue paint or anywhere close was almost always by a player wearing white and gold.

Neutral zone structure

In the 2nd period the Golden Knights put on a clinic in how to defend a dangerous team through the center of the ice. Vegas constantly had at least four players between the puck and the goal when the Panthers would get it and they displayed excellent structure through the middle of the ice on every Florida breakout.

The neutral zone effectiveness led to Florida generating just four shots on goal, three scoring chances, and 0.16 expected goals at 5-on-5 in the middle frame. The Panthers were constantly caught in between on whether to dump-and-chase or try for the controlled entry and that indecision led to multiple rush chances for the Golden Knights.

What went wrong and what needs to change

Dealing with bad ice conditions

It’s something the Golden Knights have struggled with for quite some time now, at FLA Live Arena in particular. Vegas entered the game knowing they’d likely encounter some turbulence when trying to slide the puck along the ice, but they didn’t seem to react to it quickly enough at the start of the game. Florida dominated loose puck battles in the 1st period and it helped ignite their forecheck which had struggled through the first two games.

As the game went on, Vegas started to settle in, but they still believe they could have managed the poor ice better.

When the ice isn’t great sometimes you have to dumb it down a little bit and simplify the game. -Alex Pietrangelo

This really cropped up a bit late in the 3rd period when the Golden Knights began to exhibit some issues exiting the zone. Through almost all of the first nine periods, Vegas had been clean on their exits including short one-touch passes that broke Florida’s pressure. But, with the challenging ice conditions, those passes can be a bit more difficult to complete as the puck has a tendency to bounce uncontrollably.

Simpler exits can fix this. Rather than going for the clean, pretty play, Vegas may need to rely a bit more on things like dump, chip, or rim outs. This is especially important when playing with the lead as there is no longer a need to generate offense from these types of clean exits. Vegas wasn’t terrible in this department, but they definitely can improve.

Defending against the empty net

This one is obvious considering the result, but it’s been a persistent issue through the postseason for the Golden Knights. In three separate series, the first game in which Vegas faced an empty net they’ve given up a goal in the same manner. Winnipeg, Dallas, and Florida have all outnumbered Vegas in front of the goal on a rebound and poked home a massive goal to send each game to overtime.

What must change for the Golden Knights is an increased awareness of when to pressure the puck when it along the walls or at the points. Vegas’ zone defense at 5-on-5 has these keys down to a science and they’ve left the Panthers, Stars, and Jets before them all frustrated with their own inability to get to the center of the ice. But once the extra skater is out there the keys must change. On all three goals, including the massive one to tie the game last night, Vegas has found themselves losing a board battle with a defenseman away from the middle of the ice. In last night’s game, it didn’t lead directly to the goal, but it did lead to a scramble which eventually allowed Matthew Tkachuk to find inside positon on the rebound of the following shot.

There’s a fine line when playing against six skaters on when to attack and when to sit back. The Golden Knights know how to do it, and they’ve displayed it multiple times during the regular season and playoffs, they just need to walk that line a little better the next time the situation arises.


There’s a reason the NHL makes teams play seven times to determine which team is better. It’s because in this sport, the better team doesn’t always win. The Golden Knights have been the better team in all three games thus far in the Stanley Cup Final. It’s earned them a 2-1 series lead. And even though it feels like it could (maybe should) be 3-0, if Vegas continues to be the better team all series, those final two wins will come.


Recap: The Golden Knights and Florida Panthers met up for Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Finals. The Panthers struck first four minutes into the contest on a point shot through traffic. Florida and Vegas would swap penalties which led to Mark Stone’s game-tying power play goal. After the opening period, Game 3 was locked 1-1.

Both teams were awarded a power play in the middle frame and Vegas took advantage of the opportunity. Jonathan Marchessault roofed a saucer pass from Jack Eichel giving the Golden Knights their first lead of Game 3.

Vegas opened the period on the man-advantage but failed to score their third PP goal of the game. Adin Hill made some key stops down the stretch to preserve the Golden Knights’ 2-1 advantage.

Both goaltenders were sharp in the final period, making several quality saves to keep it a one-goal game. With time running out the Panthers pulled their goalie for an extra attacker. Florida put on some heavy pressure and tied the game before the two minute mark.

Florida killed off an early penalty and found a way to win Game 3 in overtime 3-2.

The Golden Knights drop Game 3 but hold a 2-1 series lead. Vegas will try and bounce back with a win in Game 4 on Saturday night. Puck drop for Game 4 is scheduled for 5 PM.(Recap by Jason)

Analysis: Vegas had to try and withstand a much better push from the Panthers to start the game. VGK were struggling under the strong forecheck for the first time in the series and allowed some dangerous chances because of it. A huge 4-on-3 power play chance was converted to stem the tide in the 1st and then the Golden Knights took complete control in the 2nd period. They were so much stronger at holding pucks in the offensive zone and it tilted the ice and forced a parade to the Panthers’ penalty box. VGK locked it down as strong as they ever have in the 3rd. But the moment the goalie came out, VGK were outnumbered around the net and it sent the game to OT. A huge penalty drawn by Stephenson sent the Golden Knights into OT with a chance to regroup and come out and win the game. They couldn’t capitalize and then the first real chance for the Panthers beats Adin Hill. Tough one to lose considering VGK outplayed the Panthers most of the night. We knew they were in for a fight, still have control though at 2-1. (Analysis by Ken)

Upcoming stories from the Vegas Golden Knights vs Florida Panthers Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final at FLA Live Arena.

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It Can’t Be This Easy For The Golden Knights, Can it?

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

With a victory tonight, the Golden Knights will be one win closer to claiming the franchise’s first Stanley Cup trophy. Through two games Vegas is scorching Florida in the offensive zone while allowing just three goals in six periods. For all intents and purposes, the 2023 Stanley Cup Final has been a one-sided mismatch.

We’ve approached every game in the playoffs the same way. We try to take it, everyone says, one at a time, but we’ve got our backs against the wall, obviously. We’re down by two, but we’re coming home. Love our team, love our resiliency. We’re going to go out and give our best effort, play our best game tomorrow and go from there. -Marc Staal, FLA defenseman

While the right things are being said from the Panthers’ locker room, they understand tying the series over the next two games is a tall order. Sure, they recovered after falling behind in their opening round. However, the Golden Knights are not playing like an opening round team. No, Vegas is competing like one of the all-time great Stanley Cup teams. The statistics and outcomes highlight VGK’s dominance.

Highest Scoring Stanley Cup Teams In Stanley Cup Final:

  • 2023 Vegas Golden Knights – 6.0 Goals Per Game (2 Games)
  • 1980 New York Islanders – 5.2 GPG (5 Games)
  • 1991 Pittsburgh Penguins – 4.6 GPG (6 Games)
  • 1981 New York Islanders – 4.3 GPG (6 Games)
  • 2010 Chicago Blackhawks – 4.2 GPG (6 Games)

Last season, the Cup-winning Colorado Avalanche scored 20 total goals in six contests. The Golden Knights are eight goals away from matching the Avalanche’s total in only six periods. If their pace continues, Vegas will rank among the best offenses in Stanley Cup Final history.

Most pundits expect the Panthers to snap out of their two-game funk and threaten the Golden Knights series lead. Considering the flow Vegas is on right now, it wouldn’t be wise to count them out in South Florida. Especially, considering how VGK have feasted on the road.

I love the road, to be honest, where all the guys are together, having team dinners, playing cards all together, hanging out. We have such good team chemistry this year that we have a lot of fun. There’s no dull moment with that group of guys. -Jonathan Marchessault

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Defenseman Credits Forwards For Forecheck And Breakout Success

(Photo Credit: Ken Boehlke,

The key battleground coming in this Stanley Cup Final was the war between each team’s strong relentless forecheck and the opposing breakout. The team that was more successful winning the clashes in each zone would not only generate the majority of dangerous scoring chances but also control the flow of the game.

Through two games, the battles in both attacking zones have been a landslide in favor of the Golden Knights.

Vegas has consistently broken the pressure of the Panthers which has allowed them persistent exits, many of which are controlled. On the other end of the ice, the Golden Knights’ forecheck has caused issues for Florida leading to lots of dump, chip, and rim outs, all of which have helped to feed the VGK transition game.

Typically, the credit for the forecheck goes to the forwards while that of the breakouts goes to the defense. In the case of the Golden Knights, veteran defenseman Alec Martinez believes most of the praise on both ends goes to the Vegas front line.

As a defense group we’re doing a pretty good job of getting it to the forwards in good positions but even though we try to get it to them in those spots it doesn’t always happen. The forwards have done a really good job of making plays on the wall. That’s probably one of the most difficult situations to be in during a game of hockey. You get a bouncing puck or one that’s rimmed around and those can be the difference in a hockey game and our forwards are doing a really good job with those. -Martinez

He continued with appreciation for his teammates for their work on the other end of the ice.

The way that our forwards backcheck and reload, that allows us to stay up. Often times when the D have good gaps it’s because the forwards are working back and kind of squeezing them along the blue lines or in the neutral zone. While I’d like to take credit as a D corps, it’s truly a five-man connected unit, it’s a team game, and those forwards allow us to keep some of those plays in and be aggressive too. -Martinez

A couple of wins away from his third trip to the mountaintop, there aren’t many better in the league than Martinez at understanding what must happen for a successful forecheck or breakout.

The Golden Knights are delivering it in the defensive zone and bringing the heat in the attacking zone and the Game 2 goal scorer has taken notice.

As the series shifts to Florida with the Panthers in dire straights, the intensity on both ends is likely to ramp up. Vegas has followed the roadmap so far and if they can withstand the added heat the Panthers bring at home, they’ll likely be bringing a 35-pound silver alloy friend back on the plane with them.


Recap: The Golden Knights were looking to take a two-game series lead with a victory in Game 2.  Early in the period both goaltenders made several key saves keeping it tight. Vegas drew a penalty at the seven minute mark and Jonathan Marchessault took advantage on the power play. Ten minutes later Alec Martinez flipped a puck into the net to give Vegas a 2-0 lead. 

A few shifts into the second frame, Vegas took a 3-0 lead. Nic Roy shot through scored his second goal of the postseason giving the Golden Knights a commanding three score advantage. Brett Howden joined the offensive party minutes later with a weaving highlight reel goal. 

A weird hop found its way into the Vegas net quickly to start the 3rd period. It didn’t take long for the Golden Knights to make up for it though as Marchessault tallied his second of the night. William Karlsson set up Michael Amadio for a tap-in to give the Golden Knights a 6-1 lead that would eventally be extended to 7-2 with Howden’s second of the night.

The Golden Knights win both Games 1 and 2 at are two wins away from winning the Stanley Cup. Vegas will take their 2-0 series advantage to South Florida for two contests. Game 3 is scheduled for 5 PM on Thursday. (Recap by Jason)

Analysis: A lot like Game 1, the Golden Knights were the more effective team on the forecheck. The difference in Game 2 was that the effectiveness was taken up even another notch by Vegas. They were all over the Panthers in the offensive zone and consistently forced turnovers and uncontrolled exits. From there, the Golden Knights’ skill took over as they created chance after chance that no goalie could stop. It was an absolute clinic in a game in the Stanley Cup Final. Incredible. (Analysis by Ken)

Upcoming stories from the Vegas Golden Knights vs Florida Panthers Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final at T-Mobile Arena.

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League’s Best Defense Won Game 1 For The Golden Knights

(Photo Credit: @GoldenKnights on Twitter)

They always say defense wins championships. And while the Golden Knights won nothing more than Game 1 last night, defense was the main reason they were able to take the 13th step toward ultimate glory.

There were three areas in particular where Vegas’ back end rose to the occasion in the opening game of the Stanley Cup Final.

Driving offense

To reach this point the Golden Knights had played 17 games against three very different opponents. VGK D-men had scored just three goals in those games. In Game 1, both go-ahead goals came from a similar spot on the ice by Golden Knights’ defensemen.

First, Shea Theodore masterfully walked the blue line leaving Anthony Duclair in his wake before firing a perfect wrist shot through traffic to the top right corner. Theodore first received the puck near the wall in front of Vegas’ bench. He skated it to the center looking for a shooting lane but was blanketed by Duclair. So, he kept carrying it all the way across the rink to the opposite set of boards. That’s where he did a pirouette before a double inside-out dangle to lose his marker. The rest was history.

Against a Florida defense that likes to take away the front of the goal, the high slot is an area that is expected to be open at times for the Golden Knights. In previous years a lot of Vegas’ in-zone offense operated by seeking out this exact look, but this season, and especially this postseason, it’s been rare. On the Theodore play, you can tell the emphasis that has been placed on getting to the high slot. The play started with a shot from Theodore in that space, then as the puck was worked back up to him he instantly brought it there again, and finally when it was taken away, he used his skating and skill to work it there a third time inside of 10 seconds.

That exact area of the ice would manifest itself in another goal from a Vegas blueliner later, which eventually stood as the game-winner. Following a rush chance by Jack Eichel and Ivan Barbashev that was stopped, under pressure by multiple backcheckers, Barbashev sent a pass to Zach Whitecloud who was just entering the zone. Typically, Whitecloud favors a play where he activates down the dot-line on his forehand, but this time he held onto the puck and brought it directly into the high slot. With a Panther providing a screen on his own goalie, Whitecloud sent one back across his body where he beat Sergei Bobrovsky clean.

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Recap: The Golden Knights and Florida Panthers met up for the Stanley Cup Finals from T-Mobile Arena. Vegas was awarded two first period power plays which resulted in a goal by each team. Florida opened the scoring with a shorthanded wrap-around goal, but Jonathan Marchessault evened the score on the man-advantage. The game was locked in a 1-1 tie going into the first intermission.

Florida pushed the pace to start the middle frame, but Vegas’ Adin Hill made a sprawling paddle save to hold the game 1-1. Midway through the game, Shea Theodore danced the blueline and wristed in the go-ahead goal. After several close chances the Panthers scored the equalizer with :10 left in the second period.

The game tightened up early in the final frame with each team limiting the other’s offensive chances. Seven minutes into the period Vegas defenseman Zach Whitecloud jumped on a loose puck and gave the home team a 3-2 advantage. Late in the period Mark Stone knocked down an errant puck flip and ripped the puck into Florida’s net to make a two-goal game. Vegas took advantage of a double-minor power play to eat the remaining time and added an empty net goal.

The Golden Knights take a 1-0 series lead with their 5-2 victory over the Panthers. Both teams will return to the ice on Monday night for Game 2. Puck drop for Game 2 is scheduled for 5 PM. (Recap by Jason)

Analysis: It was a back-and-forth affair for a good portion of the night, but the Golden Knights got the better of the style of play for the better portion of the night. Sure, a few posts helped VGK along the way, but they stuck to the main game plan and made forechecking difficult on the Panthers while going in hard on the forecheck themselves. The 3rd period could have gone either way and it ended up going Vegas’ way with a great shot from Whitecloud and then an unbelievable goal by Mark Stone. The Golden Knights lead the Stanley Cup Final 1-0. Next up, improve on the last time around.  (Analysis by Ken)

Upcoming stories from the Vegas Golden Knights vs Florida Panthers Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final at T-Mobile Arena.

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Stanley Cup Finals Predictions From Experts, Insiders, Computer Models & AI

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

If Southern Nevada was simply asked who will win the Stanley Cup Finals, 99% of those polled would choose the Golden Knights. You’ll find a few cynics but overall, Las Vegas is a city packed with optimists and Stanley Cup parade planners. Elsewhere in the hockey universe, NHL beat writers, experts, fans, insiders and reporters are making their often-wrong Stanley Cup Final’s predictions.

We gathered predictions from various outlets and publications and even asked ChatGPT. So, let’s jump right in, starting with us. 3 Pick VGK

  • Ken Boehlke – Vegas wins in 7
  • Mike McKenna – Vegas wins in 6
  • Jason Pothier – Vegas wins in 6

For only the second series this postseason, all three of us on the same page. Mike and Jason lean towards the Golden Knights hoisting the Stanley Cup on the road in Game 6. Ken wildly predicts six straight road winners meaning Vegas would drop the first two games but go to win Game 7 in front of home fans. In the end, it doesn’t matter how the Golden Knights pull it off, as long as they make us look smart.

Spittin’ Chiclets: 3 Pick VGK, 3 Pick FLA

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Get To Know Every Florida Panther Expected To Play In The Stanley Cup Final

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Florida Panthers struggled out of the gates this postseason falling into a 3-1 hole to the Boston Bruins. Since then, they’ve gone on to win 11 of their last 12 games including six in overtime. The Panthers are headlined by Matthew Tkachuk, Aleksander Barkov, and Sergei Bobrovsky, but they boast a deep roster that will be a handful for the Golden Knights. To get a rundown of every player we turned to Kirby Lupul, co-host of the FLA Cats Podcast.


Aleksander Barkov

Mr. Everything for the Florida Panthers. A Selke-level defensive center who makes loads of plays that go unnoticed over the course of a game. Incredibly intelligent player who plays in every situation. Had a bit of a down regular season and started the playoffs slowly but has really turned it on since the middle of the Boston series and has risen back to the level of being either the best or one of the best Panthers every night.

Carter Verhaeghe

Posted his first 40-goal season in the NHL this year and has been a clutch scorer in the postseason. A dynamic offensive player that generates a majority of his offense at even strength.

Anthony Duclair

A speedy winger with an excellent shot who is at his most dangerous when he’s able to carry the puck into the offensive zone. Battled through an Achilles injury that kept him out of the lineup until February. Took some time to fit into the new forecheck-heavy style system the Panthers are running, but has really begun to gel with Barkov and Verhaeghe in the playoffs.

Matthew Tkachuk

The heart of the Florida Panthers, a tenacious and skilled forward that is dangerous in just about every way a player can be on a hockey rink. One of the best in the NHL at tipping pucks and causing chaos around the front of the goal. Dominant at both 5-on-5 and on the power play.

Sam Bennett

One of the toughest players not only on the Panthers but in the league. An excellent backchecker that allows his wingers freedom to aggressively forecheck. Does most of his damage at 5-on-5 and really helps balance Florida’s lineup as the 2nd line center.

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Dissecting The Conn Smythe Discussion For VGK Hopefuls

(Photo Credit: Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

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?

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