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The roller coaster of emotions we hockey fans call the NHL playoffs is now ready to launch the final round. The Western Conference team was one of the contenders going into the start of this postseason, while the Eastern Conference team has upset every team they have faced in the first three rounds. The HabsWorld writers have put together their predictions on who they expect should emerge victorious.

Stanley Cup Final

Vegas Golden Knights vs Florida Panthers

Norm Szcyrek predicts: Panthers in 7 games
Kevin Leveille predicts: Golden Knights in 5 games
Terry Costaris predicts: Golden Knights in 6 games
Brian La Rose predicts: Golden Knights in 6 games

(Norm) I am expecting a long hard-fought series that could end up being one of the best finals we have seen in a long while. Vegas has been such a strong team all regular season and parlayed their yeoman-like efforts into the postseason. As the team with the better record and home-ice advantage they have an edge at the betting table, or should I say NHL-approved betting apps. Top forwards Mark Stone and Jack Eichel have been strong contributors to their offence. When either player is on the ice, Vegas has outscored opponents by just under a two-to-one ratio. When it comes to their bottom six players, they have outscored their opposition by just over a two-to-one ratio. William Karlsson has scored ten goals to lead his team, while often taking on a defensive role.

Florida is the underdog all through these playoffs and they relish the role. Coach Paul Maurice took some time to reboot this team, one that had a great regular season in 2021-22, but lost in the first round to state rivals Tampa Bay. At one point during the regular season, Florida was out of a playoff position; that’s something all Habs fans were hoping would continue since Montreal owns their first-round pick this summer. I like the Florida forechecking system, always applying high pressure to their opponents. It leads to turnovers and they have capitalized many on them versus Boston, Toronto, and Carolina. Matthew Tkachuk has been on fire since the playoffs began, scoring key goals and leading his team in scoring. Goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky has rebounded from a poor regular season, to perform so well in the postseason worthy of a Conn Smythe award, so far. When it comes down to it, Florida has an edge overall at forward and in goal over Vegas, and those two factors will be enough to give them a victory in a series that should go all the way.

(Kevin) In what might be the least interesting Stanley Cup Final in history, the Panthers look to continue to play spoiler versus a team that is way over the cap and shouldn’t even be allowed to ice the team they are. Sounds oddly like 2021 and unfortunately, I don’t see the outcome being much different. The Golden Knights are much deeper up front, though Tkachuk does meet another team that will have its hands full with the Conn Smythe candidate. The Vegas blue line should be the difference in the series as they are easily a favourite over the Panthers’ defenders. If Florida has any chance in this series, it’ll rest squarely on the shoulders of their 10M dollar man Sergei Bobrovsky. Bob has been the runaway Conn Smythe winner up to this point, and he’ll need to find yet another gear for his team to even stand a chance. I think the long rest hurts the Panthers, and the league allowing a team to be grossly over its own cap this late in the season once again makes this final a complete mismatch. Thanks, Gary!

(Terry) I keep betting against Florida and I keep getting it wrong. So, let me completely fulfill the definition of insanity by predicting that the Vegas Golden Knights will win the Stanley Cup in six games.

This should be a very nasty, hard-fought series. I’m expecting trench warfare and low-scoring games.

Under such circumstances, the team with the most depth should win. And that team is Vegas.

Vegas has a better defence. They reliably score goals by committee and are thus harder to contain. I will, however, give the Panthers the edge in net.

I would also be remiss not to mention the intangible of luck. The Panthers have played a lot of teams that were banged up. Will their luck carry over one more time? If so, all bets are off.

Do I sound wishy-washy here? Yep. It’s a good thing that I’m not a gambler.

(Brian) I’ve been picking against Florida all playoffs long so why stop now?  At some point, Bobrovsky is going to stop playing like an elite netminder and go back to being the maddeningly inconsistent player he has been for the last few seasons.  Even though I think Adin Hill has played over his head a bit as well, the goaltending matchup should be relatively even if the two netminders play at their regular levels.

Defensively, Vegas has the edge.  Offensively, I’d give it to them as well.  Depth wise?  Once again, the Golden Knights.  Florida is a competitive enough team that it shouldn’t be a cakewalk but on paper, Vegas is the stronger squad and should be able to take home their first title.