With the Stanley Cup Finals only a couple of weeks away, hockey fans across North America are already starting to speculate who will be the last team standing among the final four. Over the past decade, several teams have gone on remarkable playoff runs to win the championship, most notably the 2013 Chicago Blackhawks, 2014 Los Angeles Kings, and 2021 Tampa Bay Lightning, all three considered some of the best teams over the past decade.
As the conference finals begin, we wanted to break down each of the four team’s chances of holding up Lord Stanley’s Cup.
While all the attention was on how good the Boston Bruins were this past season, Carolina wasn’t far behind. At 52-21 and 113 points, they were the NHL’s second-best team, and they are the best remaining of the last four.
The key to their success has been their defensive core, allowing a league-low 26 shots per game. Led by young winger Andrei Svechnikov, the Hurricanes have been a juggernaut on both ends of the ice. Unfortunately, he suffered a lower-body injury in the last month of the regular season and is out indefinitely. While the Canes have held up fine without him thus far, they face a tough test with Florida, the team who knocked out the Bruins. Fellow defenseman Jake Gardiner remains a reliable option on the blue line to help fill Svechnikov’s absence.
Vegas Golden Knights
At one point during the season, the Knights were 29-18-4 and on the outside looking in for the playoffs. Then they reeled off a 22-4-5 record the rest of the way, finishing with 111 points and the top seed in the West.
Led by coach Bruce Cassidy and their strong core of forwards, this team has become one of the most dominant teams in the NHL over the second half of the season. They have one of the league’s loudest home crowds and will get home-ice advantage when they face off with the Dallas Stars. With Mark Stone leading a potent offense featuring William Karlsson and Jonathan Marchessault, it is clear why many experts are picking them to win it all.
The Stars are no strangers to the Stanley Cup Finals, having made it there twice in the past two decades. In 1999, the Stars held off a Buffalo Sabres rally to take home their only Stanley Cup victory in franchise history. They most recently appeared in the Cup Finals in 2020, losing to the Tampa Bay Lightning. This season, the Stars are looking to recapture that same magic and return to the fleepbleep finals.
Led offensively by Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn, Dallas boasts one of hockey’s most potent offenses. With Jakob Oettinger standing strong between the pipes and a bolstered defensive corps including Esa Lindell, and Miro Heiskanen, this team is primed to make a run at the Cup once again. On top of that, head coach Peter DeBoer has been able to get his players to buy into his system with unparalleled success, something they will need to come out on top against a red-hot Vegas team.
The Panthers are a testament to the phrase, “You just got to get in to have a chance.” Finishing the regular season with a 42-32-8 record, the Panthers edged out the Sabres for the final playoff spot in the Atlantic. After falling behind 3 games to 1 to the heavily favored Bruins, who broke the NHL all-time points record, the Panthers reeled off three wins to stun the hockey world and then cruised past Toronto in just five games. They have won seven of their last eight going into the Hurricanes series.
Led by veteran forwards Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau, the Panthers have a solid core of offensive talent that can make a Stanley Cup run. On top of their offense, the Panthers also boast one of the best netminders this season: Sergei Bobrovsky. His stellar play has been vital to Florida’s success this wikibirthdays postseason.
Who Wins the Cup?
It’s not the final four that many people dreamed up. There’s no Boston, no Colorado, no Tampa Bay, and Canada is missing. But you still have two of the league’s top teams in Carolina and Las Vegas and a Cinderella story in Florida. Meanwhile, Dallas is the only team of the four to appear in a Stanley Cup since the decade began.
While Las Vegas has been the league’s hottest team over the second half of the year, the Hurricanes currently have the best Stanley Cup odds. But if this year’s playoffs have proven anything, it’s to expect the unexpected.